Three Las Vegas casino operators are positioning themselves to cut a deal for the coveted casino license proposed for northwest suburban Rosemont.
Las Vegas-based Mandalay Resort Group, MGM Mirage and Park Place Entertainment have contacted Chicago-based Emerald Casino Inc. about buying a majority stake in its beleaguered casino project and are drafting proposals for Emerald officials, sources familiar with the matter say.
Park Place and MGM, which have no Illinois presence, have been the most aggressive so far. Park Place has hired a high-profile lobbyist: James Montana, a gaming attorney at Chicago’s Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe, who served as chief legal counsel for former Gov. Jim Edgar.
MGM Mirage has tapped Cezar Froelich and Erhard Chorle, attorneys from Chicago-based law firm Shefsky & Froelich Ltd., which has a large gaming practice. Chorle was an executive assistant to Edgar.
An Emerald spokesman declined to comment on the talks. And while all three Las Vegas companies declined to comment on specific plans, they say they’re interested.
Not to be left out of the roster of major players, former Mirage Resorts CEO Steve Wynn also has begun scouting for local counsel.
Wynn recently contacted former Gov. James Thompson, chairman of Chicago law firm Winston & Strawn, about representation. Thompson says he declined because he was concerned about a potential conflict, as his firm represents Alton-based Argosy Gaming Co. Wynn refused to comment.
Any prospective casino operator will have to win the blessing of the Illinois Gaming Board, which in January denied Emerald’s request to build a casino in Rosemont, citing, among other things, a staff report concluding that owners Donald and Kevin Flynn had a history of questionable business practices.
Emerald is appealing the decision and, separately, has filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court challenging the decision. Behind the scenes, the company has hired attorney William Kunkle, who is representing Horseshoe Gaming boss Jack Binion in a settlement with the Gaming Board involving the recent sale of his casino in Joliet.