Chicago is finally set to get a much-anticipated casino. And it’s not just any casino, but one that could rival Las Vegas mega-casinos in size and scope.
Unlike previous proposals, this will not be a city-owned venture (though Chicago is set to get a third of the casino’s adjusted gross receipts, so it’s in the city’s interests for any eventual operator to succeed). Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that’s at the city’s request [Emphasis added.]
* Neil Bluhm was likely pleased with the mayor’s request…
Consider the new mayor’s ties to the owners of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines — who include billionaire real estate developer and casino operator Neil Bluhm, Bluhm’s family and Kentucky horse-track operator Churchill Downs. A spokesman says they are considering applying to operate the Chicago casino.
The final decision on where that casino would go lies with the Illinois Gaming Board. But Lightfoot is expected to play a big role in determining the best site, as well as who would run the casino.
Lightfoot says campaign contributions won’t influence her, noting “the worst thing” anybody could do is try to sway her by giving her campaign money. “I’m always going to look after the best interests of the city . . . I’m going to play by the book,” she says.
Lightfoot attended law school at the University of Chicago with Bluhm’s daughter Leslie Bluhm, and they remain close friends.
Leslie Bluhm and her sister Meredith Bluhm-Wolf, who have a financial stake in Rivers, gave a total of $212,500 to Lightfoot’s mayoral campaign fund, records show. Leslie Bluhm also co-hosted a fundraiser for Lightfoot.
There’s more, so go read the whole thing.
* More background…
Among Lori Lightfoot’s early boosters are a posse of girlfriends she’s known since law school and college. Leslie Bluhm, Hilary Krane, Margaret Dale and Judy Gold graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1989 with Lightfoot. Bluhm, Gold and Lightfoot also knew each other before that—when they attended University of Michigan. Like Barack Obama, who received early and critical support from his law school classmates, these girlfriends lent their advice and fundraised. Dale is a New York attorney at Proskauer Rose, where she’s co-chair of the litigation department. Gold is a partner at Perkins Coie in Chicago and expert in government and business law. Crane is general counsel at Nike. And Bluhm is a founder of the Chicago Cares nonprofit that connects volunteers to nonprofit projects across the city. Bluhm, whose father is billionaire Neil Bluhm, donated $212,000 to Lightfoot’s campaign.
Judith Gold is the only registered exclusive lobbyist for Perkins Coie. The firm has just two Statehouse clients. One is Neil Bluhm’s Rush Street Gaming. The other is Bluhm’s Midwest Gaming.
Mayor Lightfoot’s former law firm is Mayer Brown. The firm is also a registered lobbyist for both Rush Street Gaming and Midwest Gaming, among others.
Keep in mind that Bluhm did not oppose a city casino, even though Rivers is just outside city limits. Perhaps he’s confident for a reason.