Tuesday, July 26, 2011
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Report: Gambling cash flows into campaign coffers

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[July 26, 2011]  CHICAGO (AP) -- Nearly three-quarters of Illinois politicians who voted on a major expansion of gambling received campaign contributions from gaming interests in the past 18 months, according to a published report.

The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that lawmakers who voted for the bill received about 60 percent more from the industry than those voting against it.

The gambling industry gave about $812,000 to legislators, Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel since the start of 2010, according to the newspaper's analysis, which also found industry donations to Illinois politicians totaled nearly $10 million during the past 10 years.

Quinn hasn't said what he'll do once the gambling bill reaches his desk. The measure would authorize five new casinos in Illinois.

Six gambling states ban political contributions from gaming interests. Illinois Gaming Board chairman Aaron Jaffe said he supports a ban in Illinois to prevent the industry from having too much influence over gambling regulations.

"My job is to protect the public interest, and I would hope that legislators know that is their responsibility, too," Jaffe said.


The Tribune's report included a list of politicians who received the most cash from gambling interests in the past 18 months. Leading the list was Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, who received $122,200. Others were Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, who received $91,500; Emanuel, who got $81,000; House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, who got $75,034; Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, who got $73,953; and House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, who got $54,400.

The top political donor was the Arlington Park racetrack, its owners and related companies, the Tribune's analysis found. The racetrack in Arlington Heights, near Chicago, and its associates gave more than $250,000 to lawmakers since January 2010.

The proposed gambling expansion would allow slot machines at horse racetracks. It also would lower tax rates for existing casinos and speed the rollout of video gambling in bars and truck stops.

In reaction to the Tribune's analysis, lawmakers rejected the idea that donations from the gaming industry swayed their votes. Illinois Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, a sponsor of the gambling expansion bill, told the newspaper he takes "great offense" at that suggestion.

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Asked about the influence of gaming contributions by The Associated Press, Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor decides how to act on each bill based on the merits of the bill and whether it's in the best interest of the people of Illinois. The governor is in the process of "closely reviewing the facts" and listening to supporters and opponents, Anderson said.

The AP also left phone and email messages Sunday seeking comment on the issue from Emanuel and Cullerton.

Illinois Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican, voted against the gambling expansion even though he received donations from casinos and racetracks. Millner said it may be time to think about a ban on political contributions from gambling interests.

"It is a lot of money," Millner said. "For public perception, that might not be a bad way to go."


Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com/

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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