Accusations fly over casino bid - Sunday 16th of October 2005

Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens intimated Wednesday that Hyatt hotel chain officer Nick Pritzker is behind efforts to malign Stephens, Rosemont and the proposal to build a casino there.

It’s a charge Pritzker flatly denied, saying, “Obviously, Mayor Stephens is looking for a scapegoat.

“I’m not implying anything,? Stephens told members of the Daily Herald editorial board. “I believe that the Pritzkers don’t want this (the proposed Rosemont casino) to open, and I believe that someone out there is dropping a dime with false stories just to dirty up Rosemont.?

Allegations of organized crime influence have virtually sunk plans to build a casino along I-294 in Rosemont, although the situation remains embroiled in multiple legal proceedings. Pritzker, chairman and president of Hyatt Development, denied he had anything to do with fueling the spread of those allegations.

“Neither I, nor anyone associated with Hyatt, nor anyone associated with our partners, nor anyone associated with Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, has ever interfered, directly or indirectly, in any way with the decision to locate a casino in Rosemont,? Pritzker said in a statement issued by Hyatt. The corporation is involved in a number of casinos worldwide and has a stake in the floating Grand Victoria in Elgin.

Gilbert R. Boucher II/Daily Herald

Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens speaks at an editorial board meeting at the Daily Herald offices in Arlington Heights.

A Rosemont casino would cut into that action, and Stephens said Pritzker’s motive was money.

Stephens claimed he wasn’t making a formal accusation, and said he had no proof that Pritzker had anything to do with the various mob allegations. But his words left little to the imagination.

“Nick Pritzker told me ‘Don, if this license opens in Rosemont, it’s going to cost us $30 million a year,’æ? Stephens said during a wide-ranging interview he requested with the editorial board. “I said, ‘Well why is that Nick?’ He says, ‘Because you’re going to take 30 percent of our business and we’re making $100 million a year in Elgin.’ I said, ‘Well, isn’t $70 million enough?’ ‘No, Don, you don’t understand.’æ?

Stephens said he wasn’t sure when the conversation took place. Pritzker said nothing like it ever did.

“I have not had a conversation with Mayor Stephens in three years or more,? Pritzker said. “The mayor’s description of our conversation is totally erroneous.?

Hyatt, which the Pritzker family founded, operates a hotel in Rosemont, and the relationship between the powerful family and the mayor of 50 years goes back decades.

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