The consulting legal firm hired by the city of Springfield to assist with the siting of a potential casino, is being questioned about its ties to casino operators MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming. Reports have surfaced that the Chicago-based firm is registered as a lobbyist for both companies.
Shefsky & Froelich, chosen in July, has been registered as a lobbyist for MGM since 2001, and for Penn National since 2003. Those are two of the four companies vying for a casino license in the city. The other two are Hard Rock International, and Ameristar Casinos. Cezar Froelich, chairman of Shefsky & Froelich, says his firm’s work for casinos has primarily been renewing the companies’ licenses. But under Illinois law, Shefsky & Froelich were required to register as lobbyists. Froelich says the partners who work with Springfield are “walled off’ from those who work with casinos.
“I suppose if people want to assume that everybody is not integrous, I could never prove that I didn’t have a call in the middle in the night with somebody from a throw-away cell phone or something of that sort. But lawyers are bound by ethical considerations. We also are dealing with a highly regulated business. We wouldn’t do that because it wouldn’t be the right thing to do, we represented we won’t do that, and I wouldn’t take the chance of doing it. There’s nothing in it for me.”
Froelich says he worked with casinos in the past, but not since 2000. Springfield Solicitor Ed Pikula says he sees Shefsky & Froelich’s firm as a plus for the city, since any casino operator would have strong legal representation.
“If the casino operators are going to have that type of firepower, the city needs to have the same type of firepower.”
Only one casino can be built in western Massachusetts, and several other casino developments have been proposed for cities and towns outside of Springfield.