When Governor Pat Quinn shot down a plan to boost gambling in the state, he called for more ethical safeguards and conjured up cautionary images of mobsters infiltrating Illinois casinos.
But his top suggestion to fix the proposal, banning political contributions from the gambling industry, would likely face a difficult road in a state with some of the most lax campaign finance laws nationwide, if Quinn really pushes for it and any lawmaker would sponsor such a reform in the General Assembly.
Many question if Quinn truly was motivated by the ethics and oversight concerns, or if he simply would never support the plan to establish five new casinos and slot machines at racetracks. Some of the plan's supporters question if aiming a contributions ban at one industry would be fair or constitutional. And Quinn could anticipate stiff resistance among lawmakers to doing away with such a fat source of cash.
Just ask Maryland.
The governor there proposed strict limits on donations from casino owners and some employees as part of a gambling expansion, but the proposal was pummeled by lawmakers until they ended up with what supporters say is a watered-down version that became law this year.
"What they did was take a very comprehensive bill and they (put) a big doughnut hole in it," said Delegate Luiz Simmons, a Maryland Democrat who has pushed gambling reforms. "It probably is almost moot."
The gambling 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.