Judge throws out challenge to Waukegan casino-selection process; rejects discrimination claim

Judge throws out challenge to Waukegan casino-selection process; rejects discrimination claim

A five-year-old lawsuit challenging Waukegan’s chosen candidates to operate a casino — which were submitted to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) — has been thrown out. But Waukegan Potawatomi Casino, which filed the challenge, is not going away just yet.

U.S. District Judge John F. Kness issued a summary judgment dismissing the case Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago because, he ruled, it had no right to claim discrimination under the Constitution.

After the state gave Waukegan the right to have a casino in 2019, the city sought proposals from potential operators and four — the Potawatomi, Full House Resorts, North Point and Rivers — applied.

When Waukegan approved only Full House, North Point and Rivers for consideration by the IGB, Potawatomi, which is a corporation fully owned by the Forest County Potawatomi Community of Wisconsin, sued the city.

The Potawatomi alleged the city discriminated against its rights to equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment, as well as violated provisions of the IGB and the state’s Open Meetings Act, according to the opinion.

Nearly two months after the Potawatomi sued Waukegan, the city moved the case to federal court in Chicago where Kness ruled Friday the Potawatomi could not possibly win even if everything it claimed was true, according to the opinion.

Since the Potawatomi is a “sovereign entity with openly sovereign interests,” it does not have the right to claim it was discriminated against under the 14th Amendment, according to the opinion.

“No reasonable jury could find that the Plaintiff was similarly situated to the other casino license applicants, and sufficient rational bases exist for the City’s decision not to certify Plaintiff,” Kness wrote in the opinion.

George Ermert, a spokesperson for the Potawatomi, said in an email the Potawatomi disagrees with the court’s ruling. It not only impacts the Potawatomi, he said, but the other 573 tribes recognized in the U.S., he said.

“The court’s ruling could significantly limit the ability of all 574 recognized tribes throughout the United States to pursue discrimination claims in federal court,” Ermert said in the email.

Though Ermert did not say the Potawatomi would appeal, it has the right to do so to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

As for grievances related to IGB procedures and the Open Meetings Act, Kness wrote that those claims can be returned to state court.

“The federal court did not rule on the Potawatomi’s claim that the Waukegan’s casino selection process did not comply with Illinois law, and the tribe will continue to vigorously pursue its claim in court,” Ermert said.

Stewart Weiss, an attorney with Waukegan corporation counsel Elrod Friedman, said at Monday’s City Council meeting that the Potawatomi operates a “very successful casino” in Milwaukee and suggested It is trying to stifle competition.

“This is an organization that had publicly made statements that it takes whatever actions it can to prevent competition,” he said at the meeting.

Weiss said briefs were scheduled to be filed this week with the state Supreme Court. He hopes for oral arguments in the fall, and a decision by the end of the year.

A favorable decision will allow Full House — which was ultimately chosen to operate the Waukegan casino, and opened a temporary facility there last year — to proceed with its plans to build a $600 million permanent resort and casino.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *