A lawsuit dating back to 2020 involving Golden Nugget Danville casino has finally come to a close, thanks to a favorable ruling from nearby Coles County Circuit Judge Mark Bovard.
Local metal processing company Mervis Industries filed the suit against the city of Danville after it voted to rezone the casino site, located at 204 Eastgate Drive, from “General Industrial” to “General Business.”
Bovard’s ruling confirmed the Golden Nugget property’s legitimacy last month. The victory became official last week after the timeframe passed for Mervis to appeal the judge’s ruling.
‘What was right prevailed’
While Illinois online casinos are currently not legal, there are more than a dozen retail casinos operating in the state. Golden Nugget Danville became the 13th Illinois casino when it opened in May. It features 500 slot machines, 14 table games, a sports bar and a Saltgrass Steak House.
Danville’s prospects at opening a casino became a reality after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law in June 2019 that created six new licenses for Illinois casinos.
The city asked for development proposals and ultimately received two. One proposal involved Mervis-owned land near Interstate 74. The other was at 204 Eastgate Drive, which sat in an industrial corridor of Danville adjacent to another Mervis facility.
Negotiations to purchase the land near I-74 fell through after the city and Mervis could not agree on a fair price. That led the city to move forward with Plan B for the new Golden Nugget Danville casino.
After the Danville Area Planning & Zoning Commission determined the city should not rezone the proposed casino site, the Danville City Council enacted the rezoning. The council voted 10-0 in favor of the rezoning. Mervis sued, claiming the city acted “arbitrarily, capriciously and unreasonably in approving the rezoning application.” Bovard ruled that those claims were unsubstantiated.
Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. celebrated the decision during last week’s council meeting.
“It’s a great feeling. We knew that we were right. We knew that we did things the legal way. The good news is, what was right prevailed.”
Williams also made a statement to local media after the decision.
“In a David versus Goliath-like battle over the future of the city and who will rule it, the people or special interests, the city of Danville has prevailed. We are thrilled that Judge Bovard issued a motion for summary judgment dismissing Mervis Industries’ unfounded claims regarding zoning of the Golden Nugget Danville.”
Clearing up a murky situation
Mervis’ roots run deep in the Danville area. The company operates three facilities along Eastgate Drive. Mervis Industries is family-owned and operated. Family heirs also own additional properties in the city.
With Mervis’ vast influence in the city, local circuit court judges transferred the case to Coles County in May 2022 to maintain the case’s integrity. Mervis made multiple attempts to quell development at the Eastgate site. For example, the casino property sits next to a metal processing facility. The company called into question potential safety issues with the casino operating so close to the facility.
In addition to the lawsuit, Mervis requested a restraining order on the Golden Nugget site in May 2022, shortly after construction began on the property. The company said it would suffer irreparable harm, a motion that Bovard swiftly denied.
Casino has already made a positive impact
The judge’s ruling in favor of the city had plenty of evidence to show that Danville did not act “arbitrarily, capriciously or unreasonably.” The city’s actions were within its residents’ best interests. And the casino has already had a beneficial effect on Danville and the state.
Even before opening, Golden Nugget’s developers donated $1 million to the city for a new riverfront project. It gave the state $25 million for construction projects throughout Illinois in its first month.
July marked Golden Nugget Danville’s second full month in operation. The $3.2 million in revenue led to a $380,000 tax bill, half to the state and half to the city.