The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that the overwhelming majority of Illinois legislators who voted for a narrowly-approved casino expansion bill, which would double the number of casinos throughout the state, have received political contributions totaling about $812,000 from the gaming industry since the beginning of 2010.
Going back a full decade, the Tribune reports that, based on campaign fundraising data, the industry has contributed just less than $10 million to Illinois politicians. Among the biggest recipients of gaming cash over the past 18 months months were, reportedly, Senate President John Cullerton ($122,200), House Republican Leader Tom Cross ($75,034) and House Speaker Michael Madigan ($54,400).
Illinois Gaming Board chairman Aaron Jaffe, who last week called the bill "409 pages of garbage" among other things, told the Tribune that Illinois should ban certain gambling interests from making political contributions. Other states, including New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania, have similar bans already in place.
In response to the report, Governor Pat Quinn, who has yet to approve the bill, denied that campaign contributions from gaming entities will influence his still-awaited decision, according to an AP report. Brooke Anderson, a Quinn spokeswoman, said the governor is still "closely reviewing the facts" of the bill.
Downstate, some lawmakers contested the findings, including State Representative Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), who approved the gambling expansion but did not receive contributions from the gaming industry, according to WJBC. Another legislator, Senator Shane Cultra (R-Onarga) -- whose name you might recognize from this little issue -- said the analysis proved "pay to play" is still in effect.
"But, that’s the way I guess things work here in the state. Look at the teacher’s unions. Look how much money they give and most of their legislation that they’re interested in gets advanced," Cultra told WJBC.
Meanwhile, the state's newest casino, in Des Plaines, attracted thousands of revelers to its opening day last week, according to the Chicago Daily-Herald. The result? Long lines, unruly traffic and nearly $5 million paid into the casino's slot machines by 6 p.m. Monday.