Gambling expansion divides 55th House hopefuls
Candidates vying for the 55th House District seat in November are divided on gambling expansion in the state.
Newcomer Republican Susan Sweeney faces Democratic Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan on Nov. 6 in a race with no incumbent candidate.
While neither supports expansion legislation calling for additional casinos, Moylan said he also opposes allowing slot machines at Illinois horse racing tracks. Sweeney said she would consider slots to save the racing industry.
Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of a gambling plan that would put slots at tracks and add five new casinos, including in Chicago, the south suburbs and elsewhere, could be overturned even before the new legislature is seated in January.
Moylan, 61, who served two years as a Des Plaines alderman before being elected mayor in 2009, said if slots were allowed at Arlington Park and Maywood Park horse racing tracks, it would hurt the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.
"We already give the racetracks approximately $30-something million from the casinos' (revenues)," Moylan said. "We would have no problem increasing that ... and we would like that money to be used for the horsemen and purses, not to put into pockets of the owners."
Moylan believes track owners won't be satisfied with just slot machines and it's only a matter of time before they start demanding table games or to become a fully licensed casino. "And then there's going to be another major expansion," he said.
Sweeney, 56, a Park Ridge businesswoman and community activist, said slots at Arlington Park "just logically makes sense."
"It's an industry that has a great effect on other jobs too," she said. "It's been in existence a long time ... and I think it's already been a place where there's been gambling so I could see some expansion at the track."
Sweeney acknowledged if the racetracks wanted to expand into table games, that would hurt Rivers Casino and other casinos in the state.
"I just really don't want to see it be on the backs of people that, to some extent, can't afford this continued growth of gambling," she said. "And (for) our state to be dependent on that revenue, that is not addressing our real problems in the state, which is our spending, borrowing and taxing."
"It seems like every time we count on something new as revenue, that becomes the net new level that we can spend, and we already know that our debt is putting us into a death spiral," Sweeney added.
The 55th District seat currently is held by 20-year Republican state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, who didn't collect enough signatures to run in the March primary. The district has new boundaries drawn by Democrats based on the 2010 census and now includes parts of Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Elk Grove Village and Schaumburg.