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Pritzker finally shows his hand, filling empty chairs on Illinois Gaming Board

Pritzker named Charles Schmadeke to serve as chair. Schmadeke is partner-in-charge of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP’s Springfield office. It’s the same firm that Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has paid $297,349 in legal fees so far this year.

Poker tables in the casino at the WinStar World Casino and Resort
Poker tables in the casino at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., last week.
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Gov. J.B. Pritzker finally has a new Illinois Gaming Board chair, and a complete five-person board to oversee the largest gambling expansion bill the state has ever seen.

Pritzker on Monday named Charles Schmadeke to serve as chair. Schmadeke is partner-in-charge of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP’s Springfield office. It’s the same firm that Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has paid $297,349 in legal fees so far this year.

Schmadeke previously served as general counsel to the state comptroller and spent 17 years working for the Illinois Attorney General as Chief of the General Law Bureau. Schmadeke worked in the attorney general’s office from August 1982 until May 1999 under Republican Tyrone Fahner, Democrats Neil Hartigan and Roland Burris and Republican Jim Ryan, the governor’s office said.

Schmadeke was general counsel to state Comptroller Dan Hynes until January of 2003, when he joined Hinshaw & Culbertson. Hynes is one of Pritzker’s deputy governors.

Anthony Garcia, who previously served as senior counsel for litigation and investigations for the Boeing Company, will serve on the gaming board, according to the governor’s office. He previously spent seven years at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Pritzker on June 28 signed the gambling bill — part of a massive $45 billion capital plan.

But his delay in naming someone to oversee all that raised some eyebrows.

It’s a tough job, including long hours grappling with a daunting gaming expansion that will see the chronically understaffed board’s workload skyrocket in the months ahead.

All that for just a $300 per diem for attending two meetings a month.

“It’s not an attractive job. Not at all, especially for the chairman,” former chairman Aaron Jaffe told the Chicago Sun-Times last week.

The newly added duties include the approval of a Chicago casino, in addition to five other new casinos in Waukegan, Rockford, Danville, Downstate Williamson County and an as yet unchosen south suburban Cook County municipality.

Charles R. Schmadeke
Charles R. Schmadeke.
From www.hinshawlaw.com

The Chicago casino would be allowed to have up to 4,000 gambling positions — three times more than any of the state’s 10 existing casinos, most of which will see their maximum number of positions jump from 1,200 to 2,000.

The money from the proposed Chicago casino would be split in thirds among the city, state and the private owner, with the city’s cut earmarked for police and fire pensions.

The legislation opens the door to video gambling machines at larger truck stops, and to slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports. And after a feud between billionaire Rivers casino executive Neil Bluhm and online fantasy sports-betting companies DraftKings and FanDuel, it also introduces legal sports wagering to Illinois.

Casinos and horse racing tracks — which now will be able to offer slot machines and other games of chance — will be able to apply for the $10 million sports betting licenses and begin laying odds as soon as they’re approved by the Illinois Gaming Board, which regulates all state gambling.

The bill also authorizes a new south suburban “racino,” opening the gate for the first new Chicago area track since west suburban Maywood Park began harness racing in 1946.

Other gaming board members include Northbrook accountant Steve Dolins, who was appointed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner. Pritzker has appointed the other two members since March: Chicago Police Sgt. Ruben Ramirez Jr., a supervisor in the city’s Organized Crime Bureau; and CNA Insurance corporate attorney Dionne Hayden.

The gaming board will meet Thursday for its monthly meeting. It’s the first meeting since Pritzker signed the huge expansion into law and the first since former board chairman Don Tracy’s term expired July 1.