Potawatomi Tribe Takes Waukegan to Court over Claims for False Information Used to Deny Its Casino Project

The Potawatomi Tribe is taking the city of Waukegan to court following the City Council’s decision not to forward its casino project for the emblematic Fountain Square shopping center to the Illinois Gaming Board.

As CasinoGamesPro revealed last week, the City Council dismissed the bid made by Potawatomi by sending only three of the four casino projects to the state’s gambling regulator for further consideration. At the time, the attorney of the tribe, Jeff Crawford, shared their disappointment with the Waukegan City Council, reminding that the tribe was the one to promise the highest number of new jobs (2,600) that are set to be created as part of the project and the largest expected economic impact on the city of Waukegan.

The lawsuit was filed by the Potawatomi tribe in Lake County court. According to the suit, the rejected bidder claims that the report, on which the City Council’s decision was partially based, provided misleading information about Potawatomi’s casino bid. Now, the casino operator, which is based in Milwaukee, is asking the court to rule in favor of its bid and make the Waukegan City council reconsider its decision.

According to the documents filed as part of the lawsuit, the Potawatomi tribe argues that the report provided by Johnson Consultants Inc. presented false claims that the bidder’s purchase offer for the Fountain Square site was estimated to only $5.625 million. As the plaintiff claims, the tribe has offered to pay the city either 15% above or 15% below the appraised value of the property, and the lawsuit states that no $5.625-million figure is cited in the bid.

Waukegan’s Attorney Claims There Was No Unfair Treatment of Potawatomi While Assessing Their Casino Bid

The Waukegan casino project is part of the gambling expansion which was signed into law by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker earlier in 2019. Under the provisions of the new law, new casino venues were allowed to be built not only in Waukegan but also in downtown Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Williamson County and the South suburbian area.

Waukegan’s attorney Bob Long described the lawsuit filed by the Potawatomi tribe as a “factually and legally invalid”. He also revealed that an assessment which the city obtained in May 2019 set the value of the property at $5.625 million, which is why that value was used as a benchmark at the time when the consultancy firm prepared the report. No other was available for Johnson Consultants Inc. to use at the time.

The four bids for the Fountain Square shopping center site were presented to the public at a hearing which took place at the Genesee Theather on September 11th.

Reportedly, once the Potawatomi tribe saw the three competitive offers, each of which offered a purchase price exceeding $5.625 million, company officials started lobbying for a change in their company’s bid for the site. Mr. Long confirmed that the rest of the bidders wanted to be allowed to change their offers as well. According to Waukegan’s attorney, the claims that the City Council had treated the Potawatomi unfairly were not true.

A spokesman for the tribe, George Ermert, revealed that the legal team of their company disputes the comments made by Waukegan’s attorney and intended to proceed with the lawsuit. The next date which was scheduled for the court battle is January 24th, 2020.

The litigation started by the Potawatomi would not prevent the three other competitors – Rivers Casino, North Point and Full House Resorts – from having their cases taken to the state’s gambling regulatory body. It is the Illinois Gaming Board which is set to make the final decision on the casino offers.