UPDATE x1: From Crain's –Chicago has officially placed a big bet on Bally's, with the City Council approving a $1.7 billion casino and entertainment venue in River West.
While Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration faces growing opposition from Chicago residents over concerns about the transparency and thoroughness of the review process for the proposed Chicago casino, the latest actions by the key state regulatory body responsible for examining the fitness of the Chicago casino is amplifying calls to kill the casino project altogether.
According to a press release from the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems (ILCAAP), the Illinois Gambling Board, the government agency charged with overseeing the gambling industry in the state, including the Chicago casino proposal, has advanced an application for an online-only sports wagering license for Grupo Caliente.
"Grupo Caliente and its owner Jorge Hank Rhon have been cited by the New York Inspector General as 'the subject of numerous allegations of illegal activities' and Rhon 'has been suspected by U.S. law enforcement and Mexican authorities of illegal money laundering activities related to illicit drug trafficking, particularly with the Arellano Felix drug cartel based in Tijuana,''" the press release said.
The national advocacy group Stop Predatory Gambling and Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems (ILCAAP) sent a letter to the Illinois Gambling Board outlining the serious concerns with Caliente and its owner Rhon.
- The governor of Baja, Mexico accused Mr. Rhon of being personally responsible for the high crime rate in his state.
- A reporter investigating Mr. Rhon's alleged drug use was assassinated and employees of Mr. Rhon's dog racing track were convicted of the murder.
- Another employee has disappeared and the case is under investigation.
- The Nevada Gaming Board effectively ended all contracts with Grupo Caliente due to concerns with their operations.
- Mr. Rhon's dog racing track fails to have animal welfare standards.
- Mr. Rhon has faced arrest and fines due to trafficking of wildlife including endangered species as well as illegal firearm possession.