Gambling Interests Contributed $9.6 Million Since ’94, $3.5 Million Since ‘01

The General Assembly is in the final days of its spring session and that means legislators must be debating expansion of legalized gambling in Illinois. Gambling interests have made more than $9.6 million in campaign contributions over the last decade, including $3.5 million since January 1, 2001.

Casino gaming was legalized as a way to help economically distressed towns and regions, and now that the state budget is facing a shortfall, gambling is touted as a solution to the state revenue problem. Legislators voting to expand gambling would be able to avoid choosing between raising taxes and cutting state services, and they would make a lot of the state’s biggest campaign contributors very happy, and possibly much richer.

Without any limits on giving to candidates, there is no telling how much more gambling interests will give between the March primary and the 2004 November general. Once again gambling bills have squeezed themselves onto the crowded legislative docket during the last weeks of session.

This year, gambling interests are pushing legislation to:

  • Increase the number of casinos allowed to operate in the state.
  • Increase the number of allowable gambling positions at existing casinos.
  • Legalize slot machines at horsetracks.
  • Designate the location of new casinos, possibly including a Chicago casino.
  • Reduce taxes on some forms of gambling.

Gambling interests traditionally have very deep pockets. The Wall Street Journal recently labeled casinos the sector with the highest return for investors over the last five years. The possibility of expanding its presence in the nation’s fifth largest state, especially in the nation’s third largest city, is expected to drive the industry to push hard.

But gambling interests are a heterogeneous group. Existing casinos look warily at proposals to allow new casino competition within the state, and also look askance at allowing horse tracks to have slot machines. Likewise, horse tracks tend to oppose expansion in the number of casinos or gaming positions at casinos unless the tracks are also allowed to grow. And new license seekers want a seat at the table, even if the existing casinos and tracks resist.

With the Emerald license in limbo and new concerns raised about siting that casino in Rosemont, gambling remains very much in flux. The existing tenth license may be withdrawn; a so-called “10-A” license may be issued as a substitute for the Emerald license; new rules may be set in place for the issuance of that or other licenses; or an altogether new scenario could play out.

With so much money available to candidates from gambling interests, and absolutely no limits on how much gambling interests could give this election cycle, anything is possible.

Top Recipients of Gambling Contributions, January 1, 2003 – March 16, 2004

  Operating
Casinos
License Seekers + Horses Total #
House Republican Leader Tom Cross * $42,500.00 $8,500.00 $69,250.00 $120,250.00
Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson * $21,900.00 $7,000.00 $85,123.5.00 $114,023.00
Senate President Emil Jones * $25,500.00 $20,000.00 $56,000.00 $101,500.00
Rep. Lou Lang $20,000.00 $14,268.50 $46,066.00 $82,084.50
House Speaker Michael J. Madigan * $29,500.00 $20,000.00 $26,500.00 $76,000.00
Gov. Rod Blagojevich $0 $14,500.00 $30,133.10 $45,633.10
Rep. Robert Molaro $6,000.00 $1,000.00 $11,300.00 $18,000.00
Illinois State Republican Party $0 $0 $15,000.00 $15,000.00
Rep. Brent Hassert $7,500.00 $2,300.00 $3,900.00 $13,700.00
Rep. Jay Hoffman $2,250.00 $1,000.00 $10,160.00 $13,410.00
TOTAL ALL RECIPIENTS $256,300.00 $120,718.50 $515,092.45 $895,860.95

* - Includes caucus PAC

+ - Includes Harrah’s, previously considered an operating casino but now bidding for the 10th license, as well as S-L Waukegan Partners, Trump Hotels, Waukegan investor Richard Stein and giving by Midwest Gaming and Entertainment owner Neil Bluhm and employees and partners at other Bluhm businesses, including JMB Realty and Walton Street Capital.

# - Includes some miscellaneous giving not included in the other three categories, including giving by manufacturers of gaming equipment.

Note: One year ago, ICPR released figures for 2001 –2002. That chart is still available on our website at: http://ilcampaign.org/analysis/briefings/ib17.asp. Since then, new groups have come forward to bid on casino licenses, including Harrah’s, which is already licensed in Illinois. Below is an updated chart for the period 2001-2002 including newly identified license seekers.

Top Recipients of Gambling Contributions, January 1, 2001 – December 31, 2002

  Operating
Casinos
License Seekers + Horses Total #
Gov. Rod Blagojevich -0- $48,500 $237,025 $315,525
Then-Sen. President James ‘Pate’ Philip * $56,700 $72,500 $146,250 $287,450
Then-House Republican Leader Lee Daniels * $41,350 $19,700 $224,456 $284,906
Atty Gen. Jim Ryan -0- $29,500 $158,800 $190,800
Then-Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones * $50,250 $26,000 $96,128 $172,378
Illinois State Republican Party -0- -0- $126,000 $126,000
House Speaker Michael J. Madigan $57,500 $25,000 $39,000 $121,500
A.G. Lisa Madigan $100 $42,421 $21,000 $64,021
Comptroller Dan Hynes -0- $47,000 $10,500 $57,500
Rep. Tom Cross $33,500 $2,300 $15,500 $51,350
TOTAL ALL RECIPIENTS $587,148 $479,993 $1,488,147 $2,591,744

* - Includes caucus PAC

+ - Includes Harrah’s, previously considered an operating casino but now bidding for the 10th license, as well as S-L Waukegan Partners, Trump Hotels, Waukegan investor Richard Stein and giving by Midwest Gaming and Entertainment owner Neil Bluhm and employees and partners at other Bluhm businesses, including JMB Realty and Walton Street Capital.

# - Includes some miscellaneous giving not included in the other three categories, including giving by manufacturers of gaming equipment.



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