CHICAGO — Following the announcement of River West as the site of a Bally’s casino and Medinah Temple as the site of a temporary casino, officials have raised concerns as the decision circumvented a City Council vote and may have been connected to a political donation.
Ald. Brian Hopkins said Aldermen have been in brief group meetings with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office throughout the day, frustrated over the lack of a City Council vote and being misled on the location of the temporary site.
Hopkins said the original proposal suggested the temporary casino would be built in a warehouse on the eventual site for the Bally’s casino.
Additionally, Hopkins said Ald. Brendan Reilly was not consulted about the decision, whose ward contains the Medinah Temple and an area in a liquor moratorium.
The change in temporary location happened seemingly under the radar in March. The day the change occurred, a donation of $6,000 from Albert Friedman was accepted by Lightfoot’s campaign.
Friedman’s company currently owns the Medinah Temple.
The city of Chicago has rules in place to prevent companies from using campaign contributions for kickbacks, but there is a loophole according to one expert.
“The reason that was a legal contribution was because those city rules that are supposed to protect and prevent pay-to-play type operations. They don’t include owners of companies or top executives. They just apply to the company itself. So Mr. Freidman’s company could not donate more than $1,500 to Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign, but he himself can. And that’s how we get the situation that we have here,” Alisa Kaplan said.
A statement from Mayor Lightfoot’s office reads:
“Al Friedman has been a longtime generous supporter of Democrats throughout Chicago and Illinois, and has worked tirelessly to help this city. Mayor Lightfoot has gone above and beyond throughout her tenure to break from the shady backroom deals of the past, and she will continue to be transparent with Chicagoans.”