Casino License Applicants Await Approval By Illinois Gaming Board

Written By Derek Helling on November 9, 2019 - Last Updated on January 6, 2020
Illinois Casino License Applicants Await Approval

Monday, Oct. 28, was an important day for many Illinois communities. It was a statewide casino license application deadline that now has everyone involved playing the waiting game.

The wait is for the Illinois Gaming Board to decide which bids to reward. There are several contenders that make good cases.

What the casino license application deadline means

With Oct. 28 now come and gone, the window of opportunity for Illinois cities to submit bids to receive one of the state’s new casino licenses has closed.

The state will award licenses to up to six new casino locations. These will be in Danville, Rockford, Waukegan, Williams County and somewhere in the southern suburbs of Chicago.

A potential sixth would be in Chicago. That’s up in the air right now, however, as there are doubts about the feasibility of a casino in the Windy City.

For the Chicago suburb casino, there are six communities in the running, including:

  • Calumet City
  • Country Club Hills
  • Crestwood
  • Homewood
  • Lynwood
  • Matteson

Several of those proposals include casino operators. Among them are Delaware North and Wind Creek Hospitality.

The bids that include operator partnerships have a leg up on the competition, but that isn’t the only consideration for the IGB.

What the Illinois Gaming Board is looking for in bids

There are several factors that will determine which bids win out. These include buy-in from the local communities and ease of access.

Buy-in from the local community not only includes municipal government support but proximity to population centers, as well. Bids in more sparsely populated areas are at a disadvantage.

Ease of access includes proximity to major roadways. Service to the proposed sites by public transportation also strengthens bids.

While the timeline for awarding the bids is uncertain, the process has only recently begun. This should include dialogue between the IGB and all parties.

While the parties that have submitted bids seem to be all in on their opportunities, there is some caution. That mostly has to do with cost and market saturation.

Why the new Illinois casinos may not be instant boons

The casino licenses come with a significant startup cost. Each license will cost $50 million to acquire. The renewal fees are less substantial, but it’s a significant amount of money to shell out up front before any construction costs.

Tax rates on slots will be 20%, and a 16% rate will be levied on table games. In addition, there will be a 5% cut for local communities the casinos will call home.

That cost makes the threat of market saturation more daunting. Most of the new casinos will be in the northern part of the state.

A Chicago casino would be close to a new facility in any of the southern suburbs as well. There are several of those that already exist like Rivers in Des Plaines.

The fear is that instead of creating new customers, the new casinos will just pull traffic away from existing facilities. For example, Illinois residents in Rockford will likely stay home to gamble instead of traveling to the Chicago area.

The state government hopes there is sufficient demand for new casinos, and the number of bids suggests demand on the operator side. Whether that will translate to enough patrons to ensure all the licensees operate at a profit remains to be seen.

For now, all those potential licensees await a decision from the IGB. If their bids are successful, then the work of building their respective casino projects can begin.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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