The cash behind gambling politics

The cash behind gambling politics

Posted by Mike Riopell on Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:27

Common Cause, a national good government group, released a report today detailing that over the last ten years, gambling interests have given state lawmakers more than $10 million in campaign cash collectively.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the top rank-and-file gambling fundraiser is Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and one of gambling's biggest boosters in Illinois for years.

He received, according to the study, more than $270,000 from gaming interests. Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who also sponsored the recent gambling legislation, got far less, but still a notable $46,000.

Are people who get lots of money from the gambling industry big supporters of gambling expansion? That's certainly a question to be asked, and when we've asked Link about it in the past, he's told us that his record on supporting a Lake County casino stretches back to the mid-1990s and none of the donations are secret.

But just suggesting gambling interests were pushing for expansion via campaign contributions misses a bunch of the story. Sure, places like Arlington Park gave to candidates and were also pushing for expansion.

But, remember. The biggest opponent of expansion is the existing casino industry in Illinois. They think increased competition from a Chicago casino and slots at Arlington Park could be devastating to their revenues.

Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, a Joliet Democrat, received more than $57,000 from gambling interests over the 10-year period, according to the study. He voted against expansion. The two casinos in Joliet are staunchly against the idea.

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia of Aurora got about $39,000 from gambling interests in the last 10 years, including from Penn National Gaming, owners of the Hollywood Casino in Aurora. They, of course, oppose gambling expansion.

That's what makes gambling interests in Springfield particularly interesting. Lots of industries make big campaign donations, but they also often have common goals.

Gambling-industry interests are spending money on candidates in Illinois, but they're split over what they want.

You can find Common Cause's the full study here.

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