There are two bidders apiece remaining for the South Suburban and Waukegan casino licenses. On Wednesday, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) cut the list for the south suburb license from four to two.
Wind Creek LLC Homewood East Hazel Crest and South Suburban Matteson are the final two South Suburban applicants, while Full House Resorts and Lakeside Casino LLC are still vying for the license in Waukegan.
As many know, this has been an arduous process. Many of these development groups applied for a license back in October 2019, only to still not have an answer two years later.
With that said, we finally have a firm timeline for when the IGB will choose final bids. Here’s what’s coming next in the application process.
Oct. 28: South Suburban applicants can present to IGB
On Thursday, the IGB will host a special meeting where Wind Creek and South Suburban Matteson can present their cases to the board.
IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter noted this week that the presentations are voluntary. However, in a bidding process as competitive as this one, we’d expect that each group will take the opportunity to strengthen their case.
The two groups received good news this past week. The IGB could have advanced three applicants to the final round but only chose to advance two instead. Obviously, that means better odds for the remaining bidders.
Between now and early January: Final proposals
Waukegan had fewer applicants than the south suburbs, so it will not have a similar meeting to the Oct. 28 one dedicated to the latter. However, the Waukegan and south suburban applicants will need to submit their final proposals to the board between now and early January.
Board members ask the presenters questions during these meetings, and part of the final proposed amendments will be substantive answers to those questions.
Early January: Tentative deadline for final decision
At a September board meeting, Fruchter said that the IGB will have a final decision for each license six months after July 9. July 9 was the date that the IGB hired a consultant to evaluate the applicants.
And it doesn’t stop there. Not only will the IGB determine winning bids, but it will also determine “preliminary suitability” for the winners.
Preliminary suitability is a key step in the IGB’s approval process. For Rockford and Williamson County, suitability findings happened well after we knew the bidder’s identity.
Once we have a suitability finding, all that’s left are final approvals. And depending on whether a casino plans to open up a temporary facility, they can start construction once they are found suitable.
It’s taken a while to get to this point, but the pace of the south suburban and Waukegan casino processes is finally ramping up.
Hard Rock Rockford temporary casino to open soon
Illinois added six new casino licenses a few years ago. The IGB chose Hard Rock for the Rockford license in early 2021.
And, by the end of this year, a temporary Hard Rock casino is set to open in Rockford. Hard Rock is referring to it as an “Opening Act.”
The temporary casino will be open for 18 to 24 months. It will be located at the old site of Giovanni’s restaurant and feature 736 slots.
In July, Hard Rock said that it plans to open the temporary casino in October 2021.
We’re running out of days in October. So either this will happen soon, or the Giovanni’s renovations are taking longer than expected.