Potawatomi Suit Defying Waukegan Bid Process Back from the Dead
Posted on: August 2, 2023, 06:16h.
Last updated on: August 3, 2023, 01:44h.
A lawsuit that cried foul on the bidding process for Illinois’ Waukegan casino license has been revived on appeal and batted back to the lower court for reconsideration. That’s despite the winning bidder opening a temporary casino on the site six months ago, The Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Forest County Potawatomi Community tribe of Wisconsin initially sued the city of Waukegan in October 2019, claiming it didn’t get a fair crack at the tender. This was shortly after the city council rejected the tribe’s proposal while rubberstamping those of its three competitors. The lawsuit claims the process was “rigged.”
The three contenders were later whittled down to one winner, Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts, which plans to have a $400 million property named “American Place” up and running by early 2026.
The tribe owns the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, Wis., one of the biggest entertainment destinations in the Midwest, with six million visitors per year.
Its lawsuit alleges that former Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham instructed Waukegan City Council members on which bids to approve. In a separate federal lawsuit, it claims Cunningham favored the ultimately unsuccessful proposal by former state senator Michael Bond.
Bond had donated generously to Cunningham’s campaign via his video gambling machine company, Tap Room Gaming.
The lawsuit also claims the city council partially based its decision on a flawed and “inaccurate” report that undervalued the tribe’s contribution.
The report, compiled by Johnson Consultants, rated the Potawatomi proposal as first or second in every category apart from the amount the tribe would be prepared to pay for the parcel of land on which the casino would be built.
The report asserted the tribe would pay $5.6 million for the plot, the lowest of all the bidders. But the tribe claims it never quoted this figure, and later submitted supplementary materials emphasizing it was prepared to pay $12 million. This was not included in the Johnson Consultants report.
The city’s lawyers have dismissed the complaint as a “scorched earth lawsuit [that] is factually suspect.”
But Illinois’ First District Appellate Court determined that the lower court had been wrong to dismiss the suit for lack of standing and the tribe should have its day in court.
“Potawatomi Casino pursued a significant business opportunity to fairly compete for a casino license, and where that opportunity was denied due to the city’s alleged failure to perform the process lawfully, there is a distinct and palpable injury,” wrote Justice Raymond Mitchell.
Mitchell also said it would be legal for the city to restart the tender process should the tribe’s lawsuit prove successful. That’s even though a temporary license has already been issued to Full House Resorts.
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