Senate leader Bill Brady’s undisclosed gaming interests 'worthy of a Chicago alderman'
Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady’s undisclosed financial interests in the gaming industry, and his public celebration with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker over legislative approval of a massive expansion of gaming in the state, the budget and other controversial bills marks a new low point for the Republican Party.
“Worthy of a Chicago Alderman,” political consultant Chris Robling, referring to Brady, told Prairie State Wire. “For a former GOP candidate for Governor, sadly illustrative of a Republican Party that has lost its way.”
Economists also say that the legislation the gaming expansion will fund, the capital projects bill, is hardly cause for celebration.
“Illinois is counting on this revenue to fund much of that bloated $45 billion capital plan but taxpayers will be disappointed when they end up holding the bag,” said Mark Glennon, founder of Wirepoints. “This will end badly and we now see the real motive behind some of the key lawmakers.
“Gaming expansion has already been cannibalizing itself because Illinois is at or near saturation,” Glennon added. “Aside from exploiting the poor and foolish, the revenue potential is almost certainly exaggerated. And gaming revenue is notoriously at risk of recession. It plummeted in Illinois during the Great Recession. Illinois and New Jersey government were already ranked most at risk in the next recession by Moody’s, and this new reliance on gaming revenue will make it worse.”
As late as April 29, Brady failed to disclose his financial interests with Midwest Electronic Gaming LLC in a “Statement of Economic Interest” filed with the Secretary of State’s office on that date.
Brady “lists Brady Ventures but not Midwest on his legislative statements of economic interests,” according to a May 28 ProPublica Illinois/WBEZ story that first revealed Brady’s gaming interests. “That’s because payments to Brady from Midwest go through Brady Ventures and are not made to him directly.”
The story also said that Brady is “listed in internal gaming board records as a ‘person with significant influence or control,’ or PSIC, for Midwest Electronics Gaming, one of the state’s largest video gambling companies. Brady’s designation as a PSIC means he receives a percentage of the proceeds from video slot and poker machines under a revenue-sharing agreement with Midwest.”
The story showed that not just Brady but Chicago Democrat Antonio Muñoz, the Senate assistant majority leader, will profit from the gaming expansion, if Pritzker, as expected, signs the bill into law.
Within two years, Illinois could have more than 7,000 video gambling establishments, 5,000 lottery-like sports betting kiosk locations, 16 casinos, five racinos and online sports gambling accessible on millions of mobile phones, the story says. And the bill would allow for the maximum bets for video gaming to increase from $2 to $4. It would also create larger jackpots.
The bill does raise taxes on the industry as well. The tax on the video gaming machines will increase three percent on July 1, with another one percent increase a year after that.
Brady voted “present” when the bill came to the Senate floor on Sunday, a week after the ProPublica article appeared.
The Chicago Tribune, in a June 3 opinion piece, called for an investigation into Brady’s role as a legislative leader and his financial ties to the industry.
“So how does a member of Senate leadership, someone who at various times sat on at least two legislative committees overlapping with the gambling industry, slide into a role where he’s profiting handsomely? That’s a question deserving of a review by the state’s legislative inspector general.”