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Could Bluhm’s Lightfoot ties help his city casino bid?

Friday, Jun 21, 2019

* WTTW

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

21 Comments
  1. - Evanston - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:24 pm:

    If it is a Vegas style casino with a theme like Berlin or London, ect then I don’t care who owns it. I will succeed by being a place that attracts the crowds


  2. - Bored Chairman - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    It seems the close connection would hurt Bluhm’s chances if Lightfoot hopes to maintain her reputation for honesty and good government.


  3. - Evanston - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    “- Bored Chairman - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:27 pm:”

    Elections have consequences, Mayor Lightfoot won Mayor Lightfoot chooses


  4. - Vascular Dilemma - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    That’s…an awful lot of coincidences.


  5. - Colin O'Scopy - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:33 pm:

    =That’s…an awful lot of coincidences.=

    Vascular D, please elaborate. I am not seeing your point.


  6. - Paddyrollingstone - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:38 pm:

    I assume that human nature being what it is, that Lightfoot would want to help her friends out and there is nothing wrong with that. The trick is to do that without hurting the City.


  7. - TopHatMonocle - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    Bluhm is in the casino business, so it’s not like she’d be promoting her unqualified buddy to run it. And two thirds of the cash is being skimmed off, not exactly the greatest deal for a private operator. This makes it seem a little nefarious, but I doubt it is.


  8. - Vascular Dilemma - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:43 pm:

    @Colin -

    If Ed Burke requested changes to a law that could potentially help a bunch of his longtime friends that were lobbyists, developers and campaign donors, Lori Lightfoot would be calling for an investigation by inspector general Joe Ferguson.


  9. - Vascular Dilemma - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    @Paddy -

    Using government authority to help your campaign donors is okay as long as no one else gets hurt?


  10. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    The Gaming Board makes the decision about the casino. How could Leslie Bluhm or her father know gaming expansion would pass when she donated to Lightfoot? This is a nothingburger


  11. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    Maybe she will go with people she trust and have s background. Nothing sinister about that. Probably smart


  12. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    ===How could Leslie Bluhm or her father know gaming expansion would pass when she donated to Lightfoot?===

    Because for the first time all four leaders and the governor were on board? C’mon.


  13. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    ===with a theme like Berlin or London===

    That would be silly. Las Vegas has no real core to it. Chicago does. It should be a Chicago casino with a Chicago feel.


  14. - Just sayin' - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    Could be great news for Bill Brady. He looks marginally less corrupt in comparison.


  15. - Colin O'Scopy - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 1:08 pm:

    =If Ed Burke requested changes to a law that could potentially help a bunch of his longtime friends that were lobbyists, developers and campaign donors, Lori Lightfoot would be calling for an investigation by inspector general Joe Ferguson.=

    Well, I kinda see where you are going with this but I have to make a couple of points in reply:

    1) Ed Burke ain’t the Mayor and has no authority to do what you’ve suggested (and we both know you know that) so I am not really sure where you’re taking this. I assume, and you can correct me if I am wrong, you would have drawn the same conclusions about “coincidences” had it been Rahm to pull off a Chicago casino.

    2) The General Assembly has been kicking around a Chicago-based casino for decades and Lori happened to be newly installed when was finally passed in her first month in office. This pie was baking a lot longer than 30 days. You are giving her a lot of credit for a masterful legislative maneuver/outcome when I think it’s a stretch.


  16. - Vascular Dilemma - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 1:15 pm:

    @Colin -

    Rahm had — as far as we all know — been lobbying for the city to own the license.

    It sure sounds like Lightfoot switched positions. And let’s agree, a big change like that would have required sign-off from the mayor.


  17. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    == Because for the first time all four leaders and the governor were on board? C’mon. ==

    Ok, how could she have known in 1989 when she graduated law school with Mayor Lightfoot? The link between the contributions and any governmental action is non-existent and the donations are explained by non-corrupt motives.


  18. - Vascular Dilemma - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 1:46 pm:

    @Colin - Ed Burke certainly has the authority to change city ordinances, which are laws.

    @3D Checkers - Lightfoot originally suggested the change in who would hold the license was forced on her. The governor now says it was the city’s idea. What possible harm could come from finding out the truth about how it all went down? For instance, did Lightfoot ever discuss gaming expansion with her friends?


  19. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 1:50 pm:

    ===Ok, how could she have known in 1989 when she graduated law school with Mayor Lightfoot?===

    LOL

    Wut?


  20. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    == Wut? ==

    Leslie Bluhm and Mayor Lightfoot knew each other since law school, per the article. That is the most likely reason she donated to Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign. I guess my joke about that fact was not funny.

    Vascular Dilemma, MLL probably took that position just to give it up in negotiations. The City could never run a casino. Look at the federal investigation and fiasco with the red light cameras.


  21. - The Way I See It - Friday, Jun 21, 19 @ 3:15 pm:

    New administrattion, but to people like Kass this will look like the same old Combine and he isn’t off base thinking that.


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