While Waukegan could reap financial benefits from a casino, questions remain about who stands to benefit the most.
At least six gaming operations have expressed interest in developing the casino site, one of which already operates video gambling in Lake County.
It appears that the Lake County gambling operator is a front runner because of financial backing it gave to candidates in April’s elections, said Ted Dabrowski, president of Wirepoint, a local not-for-profit public policy research group.
Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski
“There’s a lot of questions about who is behind the casinos, what kind of politics are used to get the licenses for the development contracts,” Dabrowski told the Lake County Gazette. “At the same time, I know there’s a lot of people who don’t want more gambling in Waukegan. It’s a contentious issue in Waukegan.
“As you start to see how political money has flowed, you see lots flowing to local politicians in anticipation of one group in particular trying to get this development,” Dabrowski said. “A lot of people are angry because they know it’s the same political game being played again. I don’t think a lot of people are happy about that.”
North Point Casino, an apparent front runner for the coveted casino license, is backed by former state senator Michael Bond.
“A lot of money to aldermanic campaigns in recent times has been on behalf of the gaming industry,” Dabrowski said.
Finding a more sustainable investment rather than depending on casinos may be a better, long-term solution for fiscal reform.
“Another issue is how much information will be released, how much will be behind the scenes and out of the public eye, versus what will the public be allowed to see? I think it’s typical of these deals where the public is kept in the dark for the most part,” Dabrowski said. “It’s a complex, heavily politically controlled industry.”