Friday, November 19, 2004

Updated November 19 at 12: 15 am

How many tow trucks can a tow truck tow? Pushing, pulling or towing a Chicago casino over the line.

Casinos, Organized Crime and Mayor Don Stephens; The City of Chicago, Hired Truck, Hired Tow and Mayor Richard Daley; Conflicts, the Attorney General and the Chief Legal Officer of the State of Illinois-- Lisa Madigan.

What does Illinois AG Lisa Madigan have to say about whether Chicago should and will own a casino? “Not up to me,” she said. She is the Chief Legal Officer of the State of Illinois. She ran as the “People’s Lawyer and People’s Advocate.” She almost single-handled beat back the forces that would have placed a casino in Rosemont- yelling mob ties, mob ties and saying the Gaming Board wasn’t doing its job.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan pulled the plug on a casino deal, critiqued the Gaming Board and offered advice to legislators on how to get “a quick infusion,” of casino revenue by “de-activating a casino license” and issuing a new license. [See, below]. Now, when Mayor Daley says he wants Chicago to own a casino in his city and Governor Blagojevich straddles the issue- the “People’s eyes” all look to AG Madigan, and she says, “Not up to me.” A suddenly humble and modest AG Madigan- Not my job, she says. Somewhat curious, don’t you think?
Jeff Berkowitz: Attorney General Madigan, This is—

Attorney General Lisa Madigan: I know who you are—

Jeff Berkowitz: Okay, I am going to do what I can to sharpen up your [rhetorical] skills for your next United States Supreme Court argument.

[Madigan had thanked the media but not Berkowitz personally, during her City Club talk, for asking her tough, nasty questions at press conferences—which she said had the effect of preparing her for her recent oral argument before the United States Supreme Court].

AG Lisa Madigan: All right, good luck.

Jeff Berkowitz: As most of the people in this room know and I am sure you well remember, you spent a fair amount of time taking actions [this spring] as the State’s chief legal officer that affected the ability of Rosemont to have a casino [located there] and I am wondering as the chief legal officer of the state of Illinois whether there also might be some statutory [or constitutional] responsibility for your office to take a look at whether the City of Chicago, or other municipalities, should be able to own a casino, since that has not been the case and, as you know, Mayor Daley has asked to do that. So, could you give us your views as to whether your office ought to be weighing in on that and, secondly, is that something, if your office looks at, that you should step aside on [that is], the second question is – is there any conflict there that would cause you to step aside because of the well known relationship between the Daleys and the Madigans and Mayor Daley’s support of you in your Primary [Election over John Schmidt] and General [Election over Joe Birkett].

AG Lisa Madigan: Jeff, here is where we are right now in terms of the City of Chicago owning a casino. The legislature, in terms of a bill that they may or may not pass this week, or sometime in the future, would have to change the law to allow that. I haven’t seen any language floating around. I haven’t been in Springfield, so I don’t know if there is a draft out there and what it looks like, but no, there is no CONFLICT because I am not actually, you know-- I am not in the legislature and I would not be voting on that bill. The reason that the Office of the Attorney General is involved in the 10th casino license [proposed for Rosemont] is because that became a litigation matter and once it is a litigation matter, as the legal officer of the State [of Illinois], our office is involved. So, that is why we have ended up in the situation whatsoever. Otherwise, normally, it is the [Illinois] Gaming Board who has the authority to deal with problems in terms of casinos in Illinois.

Jeff Berkowitz: But, do you have an opinion as to the desirability of that [the City of Chicago owning a casino]?

AG Lisa Madigan [looks over to the moderator who says- “Jeff, how about letting the next person up to ask a question”] [Saved by the Ref? by the bell?]

Jeff Berkowitz: Thank you.
Four individuals posed questions to and received answers from Attorney General Madigan, after she had spoken to the City Club of Chicago at a lunch program on November 16, 2004. The Program, along with the Questions and Answers, will air in the City of Chicago on Saturday, November 20 at 7:00 pm on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21 and on Wednesday, November 24 at 10:00 am on CANTV, Cable Ch. 19. The name of the program is “The City Club of Chicago Presents: Inside Chicago.”
Unidentified Reporter: Should there be a casino for Chicago?

Attorney General Lisa Madigan: Not up to me-- luckily.

Same unidentified reporter with a follow-up question: What should they do about it?

AG Lisa Madigan: Not up to me.
Press Conference after the Lunch Program at the City Club of Chicago on November 16, 2004.
Gambling expansion efforts in Illinois appeared shaky Tuesday after Governor Rod Blagojevich rejected Mayor Daley’s plan for a city owned casino and Attorney General Lisa Madigan acted to scuttle the Illinois Gaming Board’s move to allow a casino in Rosemont.
[Governor] Blagojevich had once hoped to buttress next year’s budget with a quick infusion of at least $350 million from the sale of an unused riverboat license now held by the bankrupt Emerald Casino.

But [Lisa] Madigan made it clear that she would fight the Gaming Board’s decision to award the new casino to Rosemont and that it could be years –if ever—before the State could get any money from that deal.
[AG Lisa] Madigan said she decided to “pull the plug,” on a deal she struck earlier with Emerald because the Gaming Board had not adequately explained why it ignored staff recommendations and picked Isle of Capri over other bidders for the license. Madigan also said the board had failed to explain why it had become comfortable with Rosemont as a casino site despite questions about whether the suburb's longtime mayor, Donald Stephens, has links to organized crime. Stephens has denied those allegations.

Madigan predicted Rosemont would fight her in court, possibly tying up the license for years. If lawmakers want a quick infusion of casino revenue, she said, they may want to deactivate the Emerald license and replace it with another.

"It is very clear to us at this point that the Illinois Gaming Board members failed in making sure that bidding procedures for this license were, in fact, fair," Madigan said. "There are numerous questions that still remain to be answered that they have failed to answer…”

Chicago Tribune article, May 12, 2004, Ray Long and John Chase.
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