CHICAGO (AP) _ When the gambling industry wanted to bring casinos to Chicago, it found a powerful ally in union leader Edward T. Hanley.

The husky, affable president of the nation's largest union of hotel and restaurant employees has close ties to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and other top politicians. He has held on to that clout despite decades of charges that the group is controlled by the mob.

``He's a player,'' said Paul Green, a political scientist at Governors State University. ``He has powerful friends, high up in both political parties, and no matter who wins he gets what he wants.''

Hanley's Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union settled federal racketeering charges this week by agreeing to a three-member federal panel to force a wide-ranging cleanup. The union, which represents about 350,000 U.S. and Canadian workers, admitted no wrongdoing.

The consent decree was approved Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown in Trenton, N.J. U.S. Attorney Faith S. Hochberg called it a ``sweeping change that will place power into the hand of rank-and-file members and out of the grasp of organized crime.''

It's the second time the government has overhauled a major union, following the Teamsters in 1989.

The hotel union has been the subject of whispers about mob influence in its Chicago-area locals since the Al Capone era. Hanley, in power since 1974, was once business manager of a bartenders union whose charter was signed by Chicago mob boss Joseph Aiuppa, now in prison.

Three telephone calls to union spokesman Jack Lavin on Wednesday afternoon were not returned.

No one is betting that Hanley will end up a loser as a result of the court agreement. Union lawyer Robert J. Rotatori said Hanley would not resign and expects to run again when his term is up next year.

Part of Hanley's ability to win friends and influence people in high places is traceable to his organizing skills and personal touch, said Chicago political consultant Thom Serafin.

``He's a warm guy and helps a friend when you need it,'' Serafin said.

Hanley used his influence to orchestrate a deal between Daley and the hotel-gambling industry, although casinos _ which exist in other parts of Illinois _ still face some formidable political obstacles in Chicago.

Serafin also pointed to the union's generosity for some of Hanley's power.

In the last dozen years, Hanley's union has made large campaign contributions to Illinois candidates. Records show the union has contributed $190,000 to Daley, a Democrat, while donating $105,000 to Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican.

Records also show that the union contributed $260,809 to 209 Democrats in 1994 congressional races and $16,950 to 14 Republican candidates.

At a 1984 Senate subcommittee hearing on alleged mob influence in the union, Hanley repeatedly refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Chicago lawyer Douglas Roller, chief of the Justice Department's organized crime strike force at the time, told the subcommittee that the hotel union was controlled by organized crime. But Roller says he has no idea if that continues to be the case.

``After all these years nobody has convicted Ed Hanley of anything,'' Roller said. ``Is that because he's too smart, or because he's not as bad as they think or the Department of Justice isn't as good as it thinks?''