DANVILLE — Republican state Senate candidate Alan Nudo said Wednesday that he supports putting a riverboat casino in Danville.
That position separates him from the other announced GOP candidate in the 52nd Senate District, John Bambenek, also of Champaign, who said in June that he would have voted against the casino expansion bill that included a riverboat in Danville.
"The economic reasons are overwhelming but even more so, it's a form of entertainment," said Nudo, a Champaign County Board member from Champaign. "We all have different forms of entertainment and, when regulated properly and done like 99 percent of the public does, using it as another form of entertainment like going to a movie or a basketball game or whatever, it's just another expenditure for entertainment.
"I think any abuse needs to be controlled, but on the other side of the coin I think we need to offer that form of entertainment to the general public."
Nudo said he views casino gambling as another piece of economic development for Vermilion County.
"I think ultimately it brings jobs to the community which spins off other revenue for projects we would want to do," said Nudo.
Bambenek, who announced in June that he would run in the 52nd District that includes most of Champaign and Vermilion counties, said at the time that he didn't think the gambling expansion bill passed by the Legislature this spring "was the right way to approach that issue, and I'm not a terribly big fan of gaming to begin with."
Nudo's position in favor of a Danville casino is in line not only with state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin; Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer and most Danville business leaders, but also with Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, who could be his general election opponent in November 2012.
The gambling expansion bill, which includes casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Park City in Lake County and in the south Chicago suburbs, also calls for slot machines at racetracks and at Chicago's airports, and additional gambling positions at the state's 10 existing casinos.
Nudo announced his candidacy for the Senate seat with news conferences in Rantoul, Danville and Champaign. The Danville session was at the offices of the Depke Gases and Welding Supply Co., owned by the family of former Sen. Judy Myers, R-Danville. Frerichs defeated Myers in the November 2006 general election by 542 votes.
The Champaign announcement was at the Robeson Hall on the Park dormitory, owned by Robeson's Inc., of which Nudo is president.
At both events Nudo was introduced as friend of Illinois business.
"I want a businessman who understands and can help my family who has small businesses here," Myers said. "Alan Nudo has a lot of business experience. I find that refreshing."
In Champaign, he was introduced by his finance committee chairman, banker David Kuhl.
"Many of our business owners and their businesses are fleeing the state to escape (increased income) taxes," Kuhl said. "We can't change the culture in Springfield unless we change the people we send to Springfield."
For the most part, Nudo avoided any references Wednesday to either Frerichs or Bambenek, although in Danville he said of Frerichs: "I don't think my opponent has ever signed a paycheck, ever opened a business, ever closed a business, ever been involved in growing a business. But he sure as hell has put a lot of onerous taxes on us. That makes it hard when you're just 7 miles from the Indiana border."
Frerichs. though, said that he started a business known as SmartStructures with Rantoul developer Michael Specchio.
He defended his vote earlier this year for the 67 percent income tax increase and noted that Nudo supported an increase in Champaign County sales taxes for school construction.
"County board member Nudo knows that if we want to have good schools and good universities and colleges, we have to pay for them," Frerichs said. "That's why he has supported tax increases in the past and why he himself admitted we can't do away with the (income) tax increase next year. We have to be able to pay our bills."
Asked in Champaign about Bambenek, Nudo said, "I'm running against Frerichs. I'm truly running against Mike."
Bambenek, however, said he would welcome a chance to debate Nudo, once both are official candidates.
"There should be a debate. There should be some kind of a forum," he said.
Nudo was noncommittal, "I'm not sure what the protocol is for these primaries. But my focus is on Frerichs," he said.