The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) on Wednesday chose the winning applicants for the Waukegan and south suburban casino licenses.
The winners are American Place Casino (Waukegan) and Wind Creek Casino Homewood/East Hazel Crest (south suburbs). The board also found both groups preliminarily suitable for a license.
Preliminarily suitability is just one step shy of final licensure.
The Waukegan vote comes as a bit of a surprise. At the last board meeting, the IGB delayed a vote due to a pending lawsuit from Potawatomi Casino. Potawatomi claimed Waukegan’s process was “rigged,” specifically citing the North Point Casino bid.
But in a Tuesday court hearing, a judge rejected Potawatomi’s attempt to delay the vote. And ultimately, the IGB went with American Place over North Point anyway.
South Suburban Casino Matteson was the runner-up bid for the south suburbs.
From here, the process fast-tracks. The winning bidders have to clear a few more regulatory hurdles for final licensure and should soon be able to break ground on their permanent facilities.
Outside of Chicago, these have been the two most competitive bidding processes. Let’s get to know the future American Place and Wind Creek casinos.
Snapshot of Waukegan, south suburban casino winners
American Place Casino Waukegan
American Place plans to have a temporary casino near the Fountain Square shopping area.
Among the interesting key features are a helicopter pad, a four-star “mansion” hotel, gourmet restaurants and a 1,500-seat entertainment venue. The mansion hotel consists of 20 rooms specifically designed for VIP casino players.
The project will cost approximately $375 million and create almost 1,900 jobs. There will also be a retail sportsbook.
The casino will be about 35 miles north of downtown Chicago. American Place also plans to cater to a Milwaukee audience based on its proximity to the area.
Wind Creek Casino Homewood/East Hazel Crest
Wind Creek will be at the interchange of I-80/294 on the property near East Hazel Crest and Homewood. The project will cost $440 million and create about 800 full-time jobs.
The casino will feature 69,190 square feet of gaming space, 1,350 slots and 56 table games, and a retail sportsbook.
Amenities include a skyline lounge, an entertainment center, bars, restaurants and a four-diamond hotel. The hotel will have 252 rooms.
In partnership with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, there will not be a temporary casino, so Waukegan will likely hit the market first.
How did IGB vote on Waukegan?
On Nov. 18, the board delayed a vote on a Waukegan license winner due to the Potawatomi allegations. But on Tuesday, Circuit Judge Cecilia Horan denied Potawatomi’s request for a restraining order.
Horan said via the Chicago Tribune:
“(Potawatomi) doesn’t come in as a resident of Waukegan, or even a resident of the state of Illinois, but comes in as a competitor of the other casinos in an effort … to be able to open a casino. So I don’t believe that plaintiff is an entity that the statute was designed to protect.”
Potawatomi alleges that the city steered the process towards certain applicants, specifically North Point Casino. The litigation is ongoing, but the IGB was able to proceed with its vote thanks to Horan’s decision.
More Illinois casino news …
The Hard Rock temporary casino is now open, as it launched in November. Hard Rock’s permanent casino will follow in the next year to two.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter announced that Walker’s Bluff Casino in Williamson County recently broke ground.
Finally, the Chicago casino process is getting a lot more interesting. The city received five bids: Two apiece from Bally’s and Rush Street Gaming and one from Hard Rock.
These companies will present their plans to the city and public on Dec. 16. The hope is that Chicago will select a winning bid in the first quarter of 2022, at which point the applicant can submit its materials to the IGB.