A Year Of Waiting: Decisions On 5 Illinois Casino Licenses Still In Limbo

Written By Joe Boozell on September 24, 2020 - Last Updated on November 9, 2020

The 2019 Illinois gaming bill allowed for casinos in Danville, Waukegan, Rockford, Williamson County and the south suburbs.

But the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) still hasn’t given license applicants an answer. And they applied back in October 2019.

The law states that the IGB has a year to process and vet the applications, setting a decision deadline at Oct. 28, 2020.

But now there is fear that the IGB can, and will, extend that date.

Why a delay beyond Oct. 28 is possible

The language in the Illinois Gaming Act gives the IGB some wiggle room.

IGB spokesman Gene O’Shea cited P.A. 101-31 to PlayIllinois, which states:

If the IGB does not issue the licenses within that time period, the statute requires the IGB to submit a written explanation to the applicant explaining why the IGB has not reached a determination and when it reasonably expects to do so.

O’Shea also provided the following statement on the casino licensing process:

Regarding the pending applications, the IGB does not comment on the status of pending applications, other than to say that it is processing, vetting and investigating the new casino applicant submissions. Determinations for approval or denial of an owner’s licensee will be made at a board meeting.

The next board meeting is on Oct. 28, and this figures to be the most pressing issue on the agenda.

Some IL casino applicants may be cause of delay

IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter spoke for a few minutes about the casino licensing process at the last board meeting on Sept. 17.

He pointed out that the board’s responsibilities have more than doubled since last year, but also spoke to issues from the other side. Fruchter said:

“The staff’s already substantial work is made more complicated when applicants and existing licensees neglect to provide timely, complete answers, documents and disclosures or responses to any other board requests. Most make timely and accurate disclosures, but the ones that don’t gum up the works for everyone.”

Fruchter went on to say that the IGB is a small state agency, and that submitting incomplete information wastes time and resources for everyone.

To that point, the IGB denied Haven Gaming’s Danville application earlier this year. Haven Gaming withdrew its application in July, and the Wilmot family now holds principal interest.

A letter from Southland

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, and Kristi DeLaurentiis, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, urged the IGB to speed up its process in August, according to a column in the Chicago Tribune.

“We respectfully remind you that this south suburban license is long overdue and a decision delayed is a decision denied,” DeLuca and DeLaurentiis wrote.

DeLuca also thinks a significant delay beyond Oct. 28 is possible.

“COVID-19 cannot be allowed to serve as a reason for inaction,” they continued. “The deadline as set forth in the statute is approaching and the future of nearly a million residents rests in your hands.”

DeLuca and DeLaurentiis said their communities are struggling financially due to COVID-19. A casino would help create jobs and generate tax revenue.

They wrote the letter before Fruchter’s comments at the board meeting. Perhaps in response, Fruchter made sure to note that the board has been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic on various issues.

Illinois casino applicants

Here’s a complete list of current Illinois casino applicants, per the IGB website:

  • 815 Entertainment, LLC (Hard Rock Casino Rockford): Rockford applicant
  • CDI-RSG Waukegan, LLC (Rivers Waukegan Casino): Waukegan applicant
  • Full House Resorts, Inc.: Waukegan applicant
  • Lakeside Casino LLC (North Point Casino): Waukegan applicant
  • South Suburban Development LLC: Matteson applicant
  • Southland Ho-Chunk Entertainment, LLC: Lynwood applicant
  • Southland LIVE, LLC (Southland Live Casino): Calumet City applicant
  • Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort, LLC: Williamson County applicant
  • Wind Creek IL LLC: Homewood/East Hazel Crest applicant

Every casino on that list will be counting down the days until the next IGB meeting on Oct. 28.

Photo by AP Photo / Seth Perlman
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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