Tribe Wins Court Victory In Lawsuit Over “Rigged” Casino Selection in Waukegan

Written By Matthew Lomon on August 4, 2023 - Last Updated on April 8, 2024

Waukegan has played host to The Temporary by American Place casino since February, but a recent state appellate court ruling could grant a scorned bidder another chance to try their hand.

The Forest County Potawatomi Community has long believed the original selection process was rigged.

The Chicago Sun Times reported earlier this week that the Native American community has made progress in their protracted legal dispute with Waukegan. The Forest County Potawatomi Community claims officials didn’t properly consider them before suggesting other Illinois casino operators to state gambling regulators.

Illinois’ First District Appellate Court sided with the Potawatomi, reversing the previous decision of a Cook County Circuit Court judge. Originally, the justice ruled against the Wisconsin tribe, citing “lack of standing” after Full House Resorts received early approval for the license from the Illinois Gaming Board in 2021.

The latest ruling will most likely see the Potawatomi case head back to the lower court. However, attorneys from Waukegan and the gaming board could elevate it to the Illinois Supreme Court if deemed necessary.

Potawatomi lawyers suspect foul play from government players

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker‘s 2019 gambling expansion bill created the Waukegan license, along with five others. It states that host communities must approve any bids before sending them off to the gaming board for consideration.

As a result, former Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham became a key focus for Potawatomi lawyers during the appeal process. They believe Cunningham told Waukegan City Council members which bids to approve, hence the “rigged process” allegations, in a separate, outstanding federal suit.

Ultimately, the city presented three bids to the gaming board, with the Potawatomi’s not being one of them.

Despite being excluded from the final cut, they performed quite well on a city-hired consultant’s evaluation. For that reason, the disgruntled applicants sued the city and eventually the gaming board in an effort to prevent the agency from granting the license until their federal lawsuit played out.

Waukegan attorneys vehemently denied Potawatomi’s claims in federal court filings. Their statement called the lawsuit “factually suspect” and nothing more than an attempt to stifle development and shield the Potawatomi’s Milwaukee casino from potential competition.

Restarting the process would stagger progress made by Full House Resorts

The Temporary, which PlayIllinois reviewed shortly after it began taking bets on Feb. 17, is serving as a placeholder while Full House Resorts builds a permanent venue. The $400 million investment project is expected to be finished in early 2026.

In the meantime, the interim facility found near Waukegan’s Fountain Square shopping mall has more than held its own. Since opening, gamblers have visted the 70,000-square foot gambling tent over 280,000 times, including 40,000 in the first 12 days.

The Illinois casino has been able to parlay high traffic into a solid standing amongst its in-state rivals. Altogether, there are 13 physical casinos located within The Prairie State. According to the most recent revenue numbers, The Temporary ranks sixth in average monthly gross adjusted revenue ($7.5 million) and third in average monthly attendance (70,107).

Further, a Circa Sportsbook is also coming soon to The Temporary. When it arrives, it will become the eighth Illinois sportsbook.

Potawatomi attorney general weighs in on the ruling

In a written statement, Forest County Potawatomi Attorney General, Jeff Crawford, defended his community’s position.

Per Crawford, the higher court, “acknowledged Potawatomi’s detailed allegations of the City’s failure to lawfully conduct the casino selection process.” As such, it recognized that pulling the current casino license and relaunching the selection process would “remedy Potawatomi’s claims.”

Conversely, Waukegan city officials did not respond to the Sun Times‘ request for comment on the new developments. Moreover, an Illinois Gaming Board spokesperson also declined to comment, saying the agency won’t comment on pending litigation.

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Matthew Lomon

Born in Mississauga, ON in the year 2000, Matthew Lomon grew up surrounded by sports as a fan and participant. He played baseball at both the AAA and Elite levels, travelling across Canada and the United States. After his playing career, Matthew attended Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson), graduating with distinction in the Spring of 2022 with a degree in Professional Communication.

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