The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) will delay its Waukegan casino license applicant decision indefinitely, Administrator Marcus Fruchter announced at Thursday’s board meeting.
The IGB was originally set to make a decision — and preliminary suitability finding — at the meeting. But now, Potawatomi Hotel and Casino is claiming the city’s process was “rigged.” At a Wednesday hearing, Potawatomi asked a Cook County judge to block an IGB decision.
Fruchter said that “out of respect to the judicial process,” the IGB will refrain from choosing a winning bidder. He gave no timetable for a decision.
Potawatomi alleges that Waukegan city officials — including former Mayor Sam Cunningham — steered the process to favor former Democratic politician Michael Bond.
Bond is leading the North Point Casino proposal. Full House Resorts is the other remaining bidder.
The south suburban casino license process is still on track for a decision within the next few months. But these revelations throw a serious wrench into Waukegan’s timeline.
Let’s dive deeper into Potawatomi’s claims.
Why Potawatomi believes Waukegan casino process was rigged
Waukegan officials ultimately submitted three bids for the IGB to consider. Those were from North Point, Full House and Churchill Downs. The city chose not to advance Potawatomi to state gaming regulators.
Churchill Downs recently withdrew its Waukegan casino application, leaving North Point and Full House.
Potawatomi cites sworn testimony from 6th Ward Ald. Keith Turner. He said that Cunningham told him, per The Patch:
“These are the three that we want to send to Springfield. Right. And that was what the vote was going to be. Right. Put those three down there.”
Potawatomi also claims Waukegan violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act as well as the state’s gaming expansion law.
Cunningham and Bond have deep-rooted ties. During the former’s 2017 mayoral campaign, Bond directed more than $50,000 to Cunningham.
Potawatomi’s lawyers also alleged:
“Based on Bond’s campaign largesse and personal connection to Cunningham, North Point indeed had the inside track. But given public scrutiny of the Bond connection, the City also favored Full House as a relatively weak competitor that could ‘quash’ the (accurate) perception of bias toward North Point. The selection of Rivers does nothing to negate this inference, because Rivers punched its own ticket in the form of damaging information it unearthed in the Waukegan Gaming litigation. Hence Cunningham’s directive to send North Point, Full House and Rivers, but not Potawatomi, to the Illinois Gaming Board.”
Per Potawatomi’s lawsuit, Cunningham did not adequately disclose his communication with Bond to the IGB.
Waukegan and Potawatomi attorneys will meet for a settlement conference on Nov. 30, but the result remains to be seen.
When could this get resolved?
The short answer: We don’t know.
It partially hinges on whether the IGB was going to choose North Point or Full House. If it was going to choose North Point, the process could be severely delayed.
And there is reason to think the IGB would have gone with North Point, based on the content and timing of Potawatomi’s lawsuit. With that said, we don’t know for certain.
The IGB does not typically move at a fast pace, and these allegations could completely throw the process off course. In short, Waukeganites could be waiting for their casino for a long, long time.