Legislators who supported Del. casino ‘bailout’ received more industry cash

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Earlier this year, Delaware’s legislature voted to forego a portion of the state’s casino revenue to fund improvements to make the gambling industry more competitive within the region.

At the time, the press frequently referred to the $9.9 million reallocated by SB 220 as a “bailout.”

The National Institute for Money in State Politics has compiled campaign contribution data showing lawmakers who voted for the legislation on average received higher donations from the casino industry than those that did not.

This is always a chicken and egg question. Did casinos donate to Delaware lawmakers in the hopes that they would give the gambling halls a break or does the industry donate to candidates who are already more likely to vote their way?

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The institute’s research director Peter Quist says he doesn’t have the answer, but the group looked at campaign contributions in Delaware between 2000 and 2012.

“We came up with $822,000 in contributions over that timespan which doesn’t make them a top player in Delaware politics but makes them pretty sizable,” he said.

Quist says these numbers cover the industry broadly, everything from casino political action committees to contributions from people working in the gambling business.

“On average,” the report says, “$1,032 went to legislators who supported the measure, compared to only $523 for legislators who opposed the bill.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who supported the plan, was the largest single recipient of casino donations with $41,250 over three election cycles. His office says the governor has always put the interests of the state first, such as when he helped increase Delaware’s share of casino revenue in 2009.

The Governor’s full statement is below.

 As the report itself indicates, the amount of contributions the Governor received from the gaming industry was a very small portion of the total support he received. The Governor’s record on casino issues shows he has always put the overall interests of the state first, not any one interest group. He pushed for an increased state share of gaming revenue in 2009 and won that battle against the interest of the casinos.  However, since then the casino industry has become substantially more competitive in this region, and he supported SB 220 because it can make our casinos more regionally competitive and reduce state reliance on casino revenue.  If this out-of-state group is looking at contributions back to 2008, they should also look at all legislation since then, and not just pick one piece of legislation from this year. 

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