The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS), an organization comprised of lawmakers from states with casinos and other forms of state-regulated gaming, formally adopted a resolution - Tuesday 3rd of February 2009
key reason that the Illinois Gaming Board rejected a bid to put a casino in Waukegan was that indicted businessman William F. Cellini still stood to make money on the project, according to a newly released board document.
In a seven-page letter explaining the decision, Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe wrote that Cellini and his family stood to get hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Waukegan casino, despite statements from a Waukegan Gaming LLC executive in November that Cellini had sold his ownership stake in the company in 2007.
“The Cellini group” continued “to hold a financial interest” should Waukegan have been selected, Jaffe wrote. “Michael Pizzuto, a longtime associate of Mr. Cellini who purchased the collective Cellini interests for $32,450, must pay the the Cellini interests the balance of their prior costs in the Waukegan project, an amount in excess of $600,000.”
Jaffe wrote that “the payment of prior costs may be disallowed,” but that that “does not abate our concern.”
The winning bidder — Midwest Gaming & Entertainment — plans to put a casino in Des Plaines. Because it didn’t offer the most money for the state-issued license, Illinois law required Jaffe to spell out the board’s reasons for jettisoning Waukegan and a third suburb, Rosemont, from the casino race.
Waukegan had been thought to have an edge to get the casino because it was the most economically depressed of the three communities in the running and and also because it would have the least impact on business at existing casinos in Elgin, Aurora and Joliet.
Cellini, a Springfield businessman, has been a political power broker in Illinois since the 1960s. He now faces trial on federal charges that accuse him of helping shake down a firm seeking state business for campaign contributions to Gov. Blagojevich.
In explaining the board’s decision on Rosemont, Jaffe wrote that Trilliant Gaming, the company bidding to build in Rosemont, “went to extraordinary efforts to alleviate our concerns regarding a casino operation located in Rosemont.”
Still, alleged mob links to a previous casino company that had sought to build in Rosemont and past statements from the Illinois attorney general’s office alleging links to organized crime apparently factored in to the board’s decision. “We continue to have regulatory concerns and the Village of Rosemonts reputation hurt Trilliant Gaming with regard to this factor,” Jaffe wrote.
Trilliant’s bid for the license amounted to a total “net present value” of $406 million, according to Jaffe, compared with $272 million for Midwest Gaming’s winning Des Plaines bid and $216 million for Waukegan Gaming.
Also Thursday, the Gaming Board added former Cook County Undersheriff Jim Dvorak to a list of people it forbids from entering Illinois casinos because of concerns about their reputations. Dvorak, a former Cook County Republican Party leader, was convicted on fraud and bribery charges in the mid-1990s. After that, Dvorak became involved in billboard and real estate companies that did business with Des Plaines’ city government. Des Plaines officials eventually cut ties with those companies.
Gaming Board spokesman Gene O’Shea said Dvorak has been frequented Illinois casinos and “is among a group people” who soon will be added to the board’s exclusion list.
“We can’t deny there’s some sort of nexis between Mr. Dvorak and Des Plaines,” O’Shea said. “But no matter which community had been selected, he would have been excluded.”
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