The company is Union Gaming Analytics, a division of Union Gaming. A well-known, Las Vegas-based firm that earlier worked for the state, it reviewed the five bids Chicago received to build the casino and concluded that one from Bally’s on the Tribune printing plant site at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street would provide the most tax revenue for the city treasury.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot repeatedly has suggested in recent weeks that money may well be the determining factor in her decision as to which of three casino finalists she’ll recommend to the City Council. What her administration hasn’t talked about is that Union Gaming not only provides financial analysis but investment banking and other fundraising help for gambling companies—and that Bally’s has been a client within the last year.
In a recent pitch to clients, Union Gaming, terming itself “the industry bank,” discusses in detail its work in debt, equity, private credit and other financial markets. The first example it offers: Work for Bally’s in raising $696 million in a 2021 offering.
An item on Bally’s corporate website confirms that. It says Union Gaming was a co-manager on an April 2021 common stock offering, one of several companies involved in the project.
Union Gaming referred all questions to the city. The city, in a statement, said only that Union Gaming Analytics “has worked for virtually all of the largest gaming operators in the U.S., which gives it the credentials to be an expert in the field of gaming revenue.” Moreover, said the city, among its clients in the last year have been not only Bally’s but the other two finalists, Hard Rock and Rush Street Gaming.
The city wouldn’t say whether that work involved more than data analysis. But either way, Rush Street says the city is greatly exaggerating its relationship with Union Gaming.
“Rush Street has never paid Union Gaming for anything,” said a spokesman. Union Gaming did do a “small” free job for the company in New York a year ago in hopes of winning business, but never was hired, the spokesman added.
Hard Rock didn’t have a response. Bally’s declined to comment. But one person who is talking is Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, who heads the special City Council committee reviewing the three finalists.
Aldermen should have been told about Union Gaming’s ties to Bally’s and anyone else, says Tunney. “In this era of transparency, everything should be out there,” he said. “This casino is such a big deal for the city that transparency has to be at the top of the list."
Yet the only disclosure was this cloudy sentence at the end of the company’s evaluation report to the city: “Union Gaming Analytics LLC also prohibits its research analysts from being compensated for involvement in investment banking transactions except to the extent that such participation is intended to benefit the investors."
Tunney expressed no opinion on whether the seeming conflict of interest is real or apparent. The Lightfoot administration won’t say whether it was aware of the Bally’s work and, if so, why it didn’t disclose the connection to aldermen and the public.
But after previous disclosures that Bally’s was able to quietly change a provision giving it the option to buy out minority investors whether they wanted to sell or not, and that it got a two-for-one deal that saved it $300,000 in application fees, the latest news will only spur increasing chatter at City Hall that Bally’s has the inside track with the mayor.
I’m not sure. But like Alice said, this one gets curiouser and curiouser.
Justin Laurence contributed.
via Crain’s Chicago Business
April 29, 2022 at 08:31PM