The president of an East St. Louis ' riverboat casino has been selected to fill an open position as associate judge on the 20th Judicial Circuit.
Jeffrey K. Watson, an attorney who also acts general counsel for Casino Queen, was selected by the circuit's 12 elected circuit court judges.
A brief statement issued by the circuit court said, "On behalf of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, State of Illinois, Chief Judge Andrew J. Gleeson announces the selection of Jeffrey K. Watson to the position of Associate Judge."
A separate statement by Marcia M. Meis, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, added that "Mr. Watson received his undergraduate degree in 1991 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL and his Juris Doctor in 1994 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL.
"Mr. Watson is currently affiliated with Casino Queen, Inc. in East St. Louis, IL."
Watson did not immediately respond to a request from the Record for comment on his selection as associate judge.
However, publicly available information reveals that Watson led a $170 million take over of the Casino Queen in 2002 and is variously described as general manager, general counsel, and, on the new associate judge's Linkedin page, as president of CQ Holding Company, Inc., Casino Queen, Inc. and Casino Queen Marquette (Iowa).
"I have oversight of all corporate and operational departments including 750+ employees. In addition to the foregoing, I serve as Casino Queen's General Counsel overseeing all company legal matters and government relations," Watson wrote on the Linkedin page.
Both Watson personally, and the Casino Queen, are generous contributors to the Democratic Party in St. Clair County and East St. Louis, and individual candidates and committees.
Watson has made 25 separate donations to the party and candidates, most recently, in August, a $500 donation to the St. Clair County Democratic Party, according to illinoissunshine.org.
Federal election records reveal Watson contributed $2,000 to the failed congressional campaign of Brendan Kelly, the St. Clair County state's attorney who stood for the Democrats in the 12th Congressional District in the most recent election that was won by Republican incumbent Mike Bost.
Watson previously served as chairman of the committees to elect former Circuit Judges Patrick Young and Jan Fiss, who announced earlier this year he would not seek retention and died in November.
Records compiled by illinoissunshine.org also reveal that Watson was previously paid for work carried out for the St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee.
Casino Queen contributed heavily to candidates and committees this past election cycle and previous ones. Public records reveal 748 separate donations. It also received 120 payments from political entities. The most recent donation, on Dec. 14, was $1,500 to the Friends of Emeka L. Jackson, mayor of East St. Louis.
Watson also is a commissioner on, and former chairman of, the Bi-State Development Commission. He was first appointed by former Gov. Rod Balgojevich in 2003, his biography on the commission's website states.
The same site stated that the new associate judge was previously a partner at the Dusek, Lopinot & Watson Law Firm in Belleville, Illinois. He also worked as an assistant public defender in St. Clair County.
He was appointed to a vacancy created by the Dec. 7 resignation of associate judge Stephen Rice.
Three other vacancies created upon the election of associate judges Chris Kolker, Heinz Rudolf and John O'Gara to full circuit seats in November will be filled next. The deadline for application to those seats was Jan. 7.