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How state candidates view gambling expansion
Daily Herald Staff Report
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Published: 9/30/2008 12:06 AM

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Expanding gambling has been proposed as one method of potentially propping up state spending, and financing billions of dollars for a capital spending plan to fix roads and bridges, improve transit, build schools and undertake other long-range needs.

The Daily Herald asked area state legislators and their challengers in the Nov. 4 general election whether they supported the expansion of gambling by adding slot machines at racetracks or licensing and building new casinos.

Here are their responses from candidate questionnaires and interviews:

State Senate District 26:

Democrat Bill Gentes and Republican Dan Duffy clash when it comes to casino gambling and adding slot machines at horse race tracks such as Arlington Park.

"I am supportive of casino gambling with maybe three more licenses," said Gentes, mayor of Round Lake. "We also need to support the horse racing industry with some component of revenue or support, and that can include slots."

"Illinois should not become dependent on gambling to pay our bills since it is a very risky and unreliable revenue source," said Duffy, of unincorporated Lake Barrington.

State Senate District 27:

Incumbent Republican Matt Murphy and Democratic challenger Peter Gutzmer both wrote in their questionnaires that they oppose expanded gambling, but that they are ready to consider it in specific circumstances. Gambling preys "on those who can least afford to lose their money," Murphy wrote. But with the state billions in debt "I could support a limited, temporary, expansion of gambling that focuses on attracting patrons with the means to gamble, particularly out-of-town visitors."

Gambling "is not the honest way to fund anything," Gutzmer wrote. He also opposes slots at the tracks. He would consider a casino in Chicago if it was state owned and all revenue went to specific items, such as pension debts.

State Senate District 30:

State Sen. Terry Link unequivocally supports gambling expansion, while his Republican challenger Keith Gray begrudgingly accepts it as a "necessary evil." Link, a Waukegan Democrat, has repeatedly voted in favor of adding casinos. Gray said he is not opposed to limited gambling expansion at existing venues, such as adding slots at racetracks and destination points such as O'Hare International Airport, where patrons are primarily from out of town.

State Senate District 33:

Democratic incumbent Dan Kotowski wrote in his questionnaire he has opposed expanding gambling, but that last year he voted for it "because it was the only revenue option available at the time that did not involve higher taxes that put people to work through school construction, road and infrastructure projects, and to create alternative forms of energy."

Republican challenger Mike Sweeney said he "will not support gambling expansion to fill budget gaps created by irresponsibly out of control spending."

State House District 44:

Both incumbent Democrat Fred Crespo and Republican challenger Margaret M. "Peggy" Brothman said in their questionnaires they oppose expansion of gambling. Both cited its unreliability as a revenue source.

State House District 51:

Republican state Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. favors the expansion of legalized gambling. Democratic challenger Amanda Howland isn't opposed to it, and said it doesn't appear to be a top concern for residents.

Sullivan, a Mundelein resident, would support adding slot machines at racetracks and giving existing casinos the ability to add more gambling positions. He also would back a casino in Chicago. Howland, an attorney from Lake Zurich, said if gambling is expanded, she'd want provisions to prevent the growth of organized crime.

State House District 52:

Incumbent Republican Mark Beaubien, 65, of Barrington, said while he's against gambling and its expansion, "I would consider increasing the number of (gambling) positions at existing casinos and slots at racetracks. Democrat challenger Richard Garling, 52, an Island Lake trustee, said "a government dependent on gambling to support itself is a sign of a weak state economy."

State House District 53:

None of the three candidates supports a general expansion of statewide gambling, although the sitting representative, Republican Sid Mathias, adds he would not oppose slot machines at Arlington Park racetrack if the community supported the idea.

"I would not vote to deny the race tracks the ability to add slot machines as long as local control is not pre-empted," he wrote in his Q&A.

Carol Javens of Wheeling, the Democratic candidate, wrote there's too little support for gambling addicts and gambling is not a "sound solution" to Illinois' budget problems, "especially as gambling revenues are declining along with the economy."

Rob Sherman of Buffalo Grove, the Green Party candidate, is strongly opposed to gambling expansion. Instead, he wrote, he would support more mega-jackpot Lotto games, because they can be played for fun at relatively low cost.

State House District 55:

Incumbent Republican Randy Ramey wrote in his questionnaire he can support a Chicago casino and slots and the track, while Green Party challenger Daniel Kairis said he wouldn't support expansion until a number of questions related to the impact of gambling on people, the state's economy and possible favoritism in awarding licenses were answered. Democrat Broc Montgomery's questionnaire wasn't available when this piece was prepared. House District 56:

Democratic incumbent Paul Froehlich wrote in his questionnaire he's against any major expansion and sees it as bad policy, but would consider voting for one additional casino license. Republican challenger Anita Forte-Scott wrote she's opposed to expansion as the state "must live within its means, stop wasteful spending and practice fiscally conservative budgeting."

House District 57:

Democratic incumbent Elaine Nekritz could support expanded gambling to fund a "desperately needed capital campaign" if a list of conditions were met laid out in a plan proposed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, according to her questionnaire. Republican challenger James Tatooles is against any expansion, writing "the little guy is the one that gets hurt in this activity, and he is the one that can least afford to play."

State House District 59:

Incumbent state Rep. Kathleen Ryg supports gaming expansion as long as profits fund social service programs to help gaming and substance abusers, while her Republican opponent Daniel J. Sugrue is against building new casinos.

Ryg, a Vernon Hills Democrat. said she would consider allowing new casinos, adding slots at racetracks, or expanding existing casinos as long as there is adequate oversight by an independent board of experts. "There are certainly protections, accountability and reforms that need to be in place," she said.

Sugrue, a Green Oaks attorney said, "nine casinos in Illinois are enough," but added he isn't sure if he would oppose having more slots at racetracks or allowing existing casinos to expand. He called for cost-benefit analysis, including social cost.

State House District 65:

Republican incumbent Rosemary Mulligan and Democratic challenger Aurora Austriaco both strongly oppose gambling expansion on their questionnaires, citing high social costs.

State House District 66:

Democrat Mark Walker and Republican Christine Prochno were leery of adding slots at Arlington Park in their questionnaires.

Walker wrote most residents he's talked to oppose slots, and he doesn't believe they're essential to the track's survival. He also favors tightening gambling regulation and doing more for problem gamblers. Prochno said any legislation on slots should defer to village opinion and the village board is on record against slots. Because that vote is years old, she would be open to it if the village changed its position, she wrote.