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Illinois Gaming Board eyes Waukegan, south suburbs casino plans – Crain’s Chicago Business

It’s been more than two years since Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation vastly expanding gambling in Illinois, including by adding two new casino locations in Waukegan and Cook County’s south suburbs. But after months of delays — partly caused by COVID — the Illinois Gaming Board spent all day Wednesday fielding pitches from the six applicants hoping to set up shop. 

    A decision on the winning bids won’t be announced until early next year. But hovering over both sets of proposals is the pending Chicago casino process. Bids are due to the Lightfoot administration by Oct. 29, and the city has expressed confidence that it would receive multiple suitors. 

    WAUKEGAN

    The field narrowed for the Waukegan bid earlier this month, when a partnership of Churchill Downs and Neil Bluhm’s Rush Street Gaming withdrew an application to build a new Rivers Casino there. Bluhm is expected to submit a bid for the Chicago casino, but has kept his cards close to the vest. Either operation selected would build on 28 acres of land adjacent to the Fountain Square Shopping Center that’s currently owned by the city. Both applicants have one week to further “enhance” or “increase” their bids, Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said.

    Two potential operators were left: 

    • North Point Casino (Lakeside Casino LLC): The team is pitching a $420 million development — an 80,000-plus square foot casino with 2,000 gaming positions, a two-acre outdoor amphitheater, a 200-room hotel and 14,000 square foot conference center — that they say would create 2,200 local jobs. The group has the backing of the Lake County Building and Construction Trades Council and counts Pam Netzky, co-founder of SkinnyPop popcorn, as a “proud partner.” Bill Warner, the president of Warner Gaming, led the presentation, and promised the casino would draw out-of-state gamers and that “nobody is better equipped to maximize revenues than we are.” Among their pledges to Waukegan: $400,000 annual guaranteed payments. 

       
    • American Place (Full House Resorts, Inc.): Hailing from Las Vegas, this team promised an upscale casino with boutique mansion hotel, private pool, and helipad with airport access for high-roller guests. The group played up non-gaming amenities to bring in additional revenues, a “new generation casino that brings Las Vegas pizzazz.” The casino itself would have 1,640 slot machines, 100 table games, and a state-of-the-art sportsbook with a giant video wall. The casino would also have five restaurants. If selected, the group would lease the land they intend to build on from the city at a price of $3 million a year. 

    SOUTH SUBURBS

    Four operators which are vying for a chance to set up in the south suburbs, drawing gamblers from across the Indiana border, made their pitches throughout the afternoon, with many focused on how their proposals could boost economic development and job opportunities. The Illinois Gaming Board will have to cut down those applicants from four to three. “That vote may occur on Oct. 20 when the board conducts its regular meeting,” administrator Fruchter said. 

    Those four applicants: 

    • Wind Creek IL LLC (Homewood/East Hazel Crest): Wind Creek, the principal gaming and hospitality entity for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, is proposing a 70,000-square-foot casino with 1,300 slot machines, 56 table games, three restaurants, two bars and a 252-room luxury hotel. The project will cost an estimated $440 million. The project would be in the heart of seven south suburban townships where jobs are most needed, presenters said. They’re backed by local state Rep. Will Davis and Jaime di Paulo from the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

       
    • Southland LIVE (Calumet City): The proposed 150,000 square foot casino would be built on 20 acres near the River Oaks Center Mall and operated by Delaware North. Describing it as a “huge economic infusion for the area,” the bidders promised 1,200 slots, 35 table games, and $52 million in revenue in 2022 from a temporary casino, with a primary one operational by 2024. Also proposed: a music venue, three restaurants, three lounges and a 200-room hotel. Delaware North is a familiar name to some in Chicagoland—they operate retail at Soldier Field for the Bears as well as concessions, and retail at Guaranteed Rate Field. 

       
    • South Suburban Development LLC (Matteson): A group led by the Choctaw Nation proposes transforming the old Lincoln Mall on the corner of US 30 Lincoln Highway and Cicero into a 33,300 square foot, 1,552 position casino with an upscale restaurant, food hall, and 200-room hotel. It has the support of Village President Sheila Chalmers-Currin. The Choctaw Nation operates 22 casinos and more than 1,000 hotel rooms, according to the Sun-Times. Applicants expect it to create 1,200 jobs. 

       
    • Southland Ho-Chunk (Lynwood): Joking that “they might even be able to see us in Indiana,” bidders for a site in Lynwood backed by the Ho-Chunk Nation plan on a temporary casino with 250 slot machines, 15 table games, a permanent hotel, resort and casino with 1,500 slot machines, 70 table games, and a 300-room hotel. When completed, the casino would provide 1,100 permanent jobs. The project is expected to cost $390 million.  

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