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posted: 9/22/2012 8:00 AM

Gambling divides 30th Senate District hopefuls

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  • Don Castella

      Don Castella

  • Terry Link

      Terry Link

 
 

The candidates running for the 30th state Senate seat have opposing views on legalized gambling, particularly casinos.

Incumbent Democrat Terry Link has been a very public proponent and has pushed for casino expansion in Lake County and elsewhere.

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Republican challenger Don Castella says he opposes casino expansions here "on economic and moral grounds."

The gambling lobby is a powerful one in Illinois, and casino expansion has been a hot issue for years, particularly the concept of a Chicago casino.

The industry -- including casinos, racing parks and horsemen associations -- has contributed nearly $10 million to Illinois politicians over the past decade, according to an analysis by good-government group Common Cause.

Link has received nearly $59,000 from such donors in recent years, ranking him 14th in the state, the group's report showed. House Republican Leader Tom Cross, who has received more than $530,000 in gambling-industry donations since 2002, topped the list.

Link, of Waukegan, is an outspoken proponent of legalized gambling, and he has repeatedly championed legislation that would bring more casinos to Illinois.

He's especially pursued one for Lake County. The most recent gambling proposal, vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn last month, would have put a casino in Park City.

The issue could be important after the Nov. 6 election. In the weeks before the new legislature is seated in January, lawmakers could be asked to override the veto.

A state senator since 1997 who leads the Senate's gaming committee, Link told the Daily Herald he will continue to sponsor such plans.

"Too many of our neighboring states currently take advantage of our reluctance and prop up their budgets with dollars from Illinois residents visiting the casinos just across our borders," Link said in a candidate questionnaire for the newspaper.

He also supports the idea of adding slot machines to Illinois racetracks, including Arlington Park. They would promote economic development and boost the state's agriculture industry, he said.

Without larger purses generated by slots, more horse owners and trainers may leave Illinois for better racing in other states, which would impact Illinois horse breeders and various agricultural fields.

In a subsequent interview, Link said he'll count heads after Nov. 6 to determine what to do about a possible override of Quinn's veto.

Castella, of Lincolnshire, is a retired business owner who is active in GOP politics. He's led the Vernon Township Republican organization since 2006 and is vice chairman of the conservative Republican Assembly of Lake County.

When asked on the Daily Herald questionnaire about legalized gambling and expansion, Castella's answer was brief.

"I generally oppose gambling expansion," he wrote. "I oppose casino expansion in my district on economic and moral grounds."

In subsequent interviews, Castella criticized the gambling industry's business model, saying it depends on people with gambling problems and takes away disposable income that could be spent at other businesses.

Castella expressed concern about the potential influence of organized crime, too.

He also criticized Link for taking campaign contributions from the gambling industry.

"I haven't taken a dime from gaming interests and I would not," Castella said. "I think it's improper."

The 30th District comprises a large portion of Lake County and a small bit of Cook County. Redrawn for this election, its boundaries include parts or all of Buffalo Grove, Gurnee, Lincolnshire, Mettawa, Mundelein, North Chicago, Park City, Vernon Hills, Waukegan and Wheeling.

Daily Herald staff writer Mike Riopell and Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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