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posted: 3/2/2012 5:30 AM

84th House candidates split on gambling expansion

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  • Carole Cheney

      Carole Cheney

  • Stephanie Kifowit

      Stephanie Kifowit

  • Alex Arroyo

      Alex Arroyo

 
 

In the Democratic primary for the 84th State House seat, one candidate is more open than the others to considering gambling expansion as a boost to the state budget.

Carole Cheney, a 51-year-old Aurora attorney, said she would support gambling expansion if it can be proven more casinos wouldn't just draw business from existing venues and if it is "regulated properly."

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"If it is demonstrated that it will bring new revenue, I think it would help capital expansion, which is something we desperately need to bring jobs," Cheney said.

Her opponents, fellow Democrats and Aurorans Stephanie Kifowit and Alex Arroyo, both said they do not support additional casinos in Illinois.

Kifowit, 40, said she doesn't think the state can count on gambling to bring a steady source of income. As an Aurora alderman, she sees the monthly revenue report from Hollywood Casino Aurora, and said it has been trending downward. In January, the casino brought in $10.9 million in adjusted gross receipts -- down from $12.9 million in December and $14.4 million a year ago in January 2011, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

"There's only a finite amount of gamblers in the state," Kifowit said. "I don't believe (gambling expansion) will lead to more revenue; I don't believe it will help the local economy. It's an idea that doesn't solve the problem."

Arroyo said the recent opening of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines already is hurting established gambling venues such as the one in downtown Aurora. Rivers Casino, which opened in July, brought in $30.3 million in January, according to the gaming board.

Arroyo said he doesn't oppose slots at horse racing tracks such as Arlington Park, but "I do have problems with more casinos."

All three candidates offered measures other than gambling expansion that could help cut the budget and improve the state's financial situation.

Cheney said budgeting more sensibly instead of kicking expenses to the future, combining the offices of the state treasurer and comptroller and using technology to achieve greater efficiency are measures she would implement to improve the state's financial situation.

Kifowit said the state needs to reduce its fleet of vehicles -- especially airplanes, helicopters and cars people use to get to and from work. She also suggested combining the treasurer and comptroller's offices and said lawmakers should vote to cut their pay by 10 percent.

"The elected individuals need to look at a pay cut as well," Kifowit said.

Arroyo said the state could help its budget by cutting back on grants and earmarks and upgrading state agency computer programs that aren't compatible. He said Medicaid, pensions and social services are priorities that need to be protected from budget cuts.

The candidates are squaring off in the March 20 primary to represent the newly drawn 84th District, which includes parts of Aurora, Naperville, Montgomery, Oswego and Boulder Hill.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Patricia Fee of Aurora in the November general election.

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