Former Illinois Mayor Implicated In Casino Conspiracy

  • The former mayor of Waukegan, Illinois has been implicated in a quid-pro-quo conspiracy to exchange campaign funding for votes on casino licensing, according to court documents.
  • The city denies any wrongdoing and claims the suit is frivolous; regardless, the two parties have a settlement mediation hearing scheduled for later this month.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. – The former mayor of Waukegan, Illinois and other officials allegedly rigged the casino bidding process to favor a proposal from a former Democratic lawmaker-turned video gambling executive who bankrolled the campaigns of the mayor and City Council members, according to allegations made by a rejected bidder in newly unsealed court documents.

The allegations were detailed in a federal court filing by a company owned by the Forest County Potawatomi Community. The Potawatomi community operates the Waukegan Potawatomi Casino, which was rejected during the casino bidding process.

The allegations have surfaced as state gambling regulators prepare to vote for licensing approval to operate a Waukegan casino on Thursday.

The Illinois Gaming Board, the entity tasked with regulatory oversight of Illinois legal gambling, will choose between North Point Casino (led by former state Senator Michael Bond) and Full House Resorts (based out of Las Vegas).

The court documents detail the relationship between Bond and former mayor Sam Cunningham, which the Potawatomi group alleges directly led to policy and licensing decisions in Bond’s favor. The documents also allege a failure of city officials to report some communications between Bond and the regulatory entity, which they claim is a violation of an Illinois state law passed in 2019.

The report cites the voting records of three council members, each of whom received campaign funding from Bond. The allegation is that the council members voted at the direction of then-mayor Cunningham, as a part of a quid-pro-quo deal exchanging campaign funding for voting in accordance to the mayor’s directions, which were influenced by Bond.

“Cunningham’s secret directive was the culmination of a rigged process – a process Cunningham manipulated to achieve the outcome he preferred,” the Potawatomi community stated in its argument.

The city claims that there was no wrongdoing and implies the case is frivolous, stating in court documents that “the Potawatomi Tribe’s internal communications and history of litigation reveal this scorched-earth lawsuit is factually suspect.”

“The federal courts are not to be used as zoning and licensing boards of appeal,” the city said in the documents. “But that is just what Waukegan Potawatomi Casino seeks to do here – to invoke the federal court’s jurisdiction as a means of appealing the City of Waukegan’s licensing decisions.”

The two parties have a settlement mediation scheduled for the end of November.