* From the BGA…
In the months leading up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 re-election, members of the family that controls Illinois’ most successful casino gave $300,000 to his campaign. Just five days into Emanuel’s second term, Rivers Casino chairman Neil Bluhm called in a request.
Among emails obtained recently from Emanuel’s personal account by the Better Government Association is one sent to the mayor written by his deputy Steve Koch on May 23, 2015, relating a phone conversation with Bluhm.
“Spoke to Neil Bluhm,” Koch wrote. “he (sic) was calling to make sure we are as opposed to table games at racetracks as he is. I assured he (sic) we are adamantly opposed.” […]
That communication took place one day after a report in The Daily Herald about a push in Springfield to expand casino style gambling to racetracks like Arlington Park. Such a move, had it succeeded, would have posed a competitive threat to nearby Rivers in Des Plaines. […]
Bluhm’s call to the deputy mayor prompted this email response from then chief City Hall lobbyist Michael Rendina: “We will need to call [state senate president John] Cullerton and ask that he keep them (table games at tracks) out of the bill.”
Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath dismissed the importance of the Bluhm interaction, noting that city and Rivers had a common cause in opposing the threat of turning racetracks into casinos.
“We had the same position on table gaming because he was worried they would eat into the profits of his casino and we were worried they would eat into the profits of a possible Chicago casino,” said McGrath. “We didn’t need a reminder from Mr. Bluhm that this was something to be opposed.”
Spokesman Dennis Culloton said that Bluhm, a registered lobbyist for Rivers, alerted the city that the racetrack measure was afoot “to make sure the city reviewed the negative impact that table games at the tracks would have on gaming revenues to the city. As two major stakeholders in this potential legislation, this conversation was entirely appropriate and in the interest of the city.”