The gambling regulators of Illinois have put off their vote on a much-expected Waukegan casino after a bidder, whose bid got rejected, made a move to prevent the state from taking action as they alleged that the selection process was manipulated by the previous mayor and other suburb officials to support a former Democratic legislator.
Today, the Illinois Gaming Board was expected to pre-approve either North Point Casino, led by former state senator Michael Bond or Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts for a casino in Waukegan. However, the Forest County Potawatomi Community, whose casino bid was turned down, accused Sam Cunningham, who previously occupied the mayoral position, and his City Council allies of improperly favoring the bid of the former lawmaker.
On November 17th, a hearing was held at a Circuit Court in Cook County over the effort of the Potawatomi group to block a decision. At the time, a state lawyer explained that the board plans not to vote on the project until after mediation in federal court between the Potawatomi tribe and the city authorities takes place later in November.
In 2019, the Potawatomi tribe, which operates a gambling venue in Milwaukee, took Waukegan officials to court after the City Council decided to send three rival casino proposals to the Gaming Board for consideration. Rivers Casino Waukegan, which offers its services as a joint venture between Churchill Downs and Rush Street Gaming, withdrew its bid towards the end of September.
Former Mayor and City Council Members Received Campaign Donations from Potawatomi Group’s Opponents
According to a federal court filing that was made public towards the end of the previous week, there was a friendly relationship between former Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham, the former state senator Michael Bond, and some key aldermen. Furthermore, city officials who did not officially unveil some of their communications with Mr. Bond and his company to local regulatory bodies have been alleged to violating the 2019 state law that permitted the new casino as part of a significant gambling industry expansion in the state of Illinois.
According to sworn testimony given by Alderman Keith Turner, in October 2019, the former Mayor told him which were the three casino proposals that they wanted to send for further approval. Mr. Turner confirmed that he and three other City Council members, all of whom had received political campaign donations associated with Mr. Bond, backed only the three casino proposals that the mayor had identified.
Former Mayor Cunningham rejected these claims, saying that the bidding process did not lack any fairness, openness and transparency. He further noted that the process was not about him and Michael Bond but about the city of Waukegan and the choice that would serve in the best interest of the entire community. However, their opponents from the Potawatomi group have noted that Mr. Bond director over $50,000 to the mayoral campaign of Cunningham in 2017. A couple of years later, his campaign and associated political action committees followed up with donations worth $266,000 to four successful candidates for aldermen positions.
The city, in its turn, argues that the internal communications of the Potawatomi Tribe and history of litigation reveal that the lawsuit was factually suspect. The local authorities believe that the real interest of the tribe in establishing the Waukegan casino is protecting its casino in Milwaukee from the possible competition.