Walker’s Bluff Casino has received a “preliminarily suitable” ruling from the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB).
Although that’s not a final approval, it’s a key step toward securing one. The board gave its decision at a Wednesday meeting.
The IGB has been notoriously slow in processing new casino applications. The 2019 gaming package allowed for six new casinos to be built in Illinois and — about halfway through 2021 — zero licenses have been handed out.
Only one other casino — the Hard Rock Casino Rockford — has already been found preliminarily suitable. That was in February, and Hard Rock still hasn’t received the final go-ahead.
Regardless, to get to this point is significant for Walker’s Bluff. Iowa-based Elite Casino Resorts is the company in charge of the project, and it has some ambitious plans for the facility.
What to know about Walker’s Bluff Casino
Walker’s Bluff Casino would be in the unincorporated area in Williamson County, which is in southern Illinois. It’s about equidistant from the Kentucky and Missouri borders.
Elite Resorts is planning to open a casino, hotel, event center, pool and spa at the site. The resort would also feature more than 650 slot machines and 20 table games, as well as a sportsbook.
Elite Resorts is the lone applicant for the Williamson County license. It currently owns three casinos in Iowa, but none in Illinois.
Previously, Elite Resorts had planned to build the facility in multiple phases. Now, it will construct everything at the same time.
Dan Kehl, the CEO of Elite Casino Resorts, said:
“The new proposed construction schedule allows us to open the casino, hotel, spa, and all of our signature Elite amenities sooner, giving new customers a great first impression of the new Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort.”
Only Harrah’s Metropolis is further south in Illinois than Williamson County, so the Walker’s Bluff project would give folks in that area another casino option.
What about the other new Illinois casinos?
As previously mentioned, handing out new Illinois casino licenses has proven to be an arduous process.
Walker’s Bluff now joins Hard Rock Casino Rockford in the preliminarily suitable stage. Still, no new licenses have been handed out following the 2019 gaming expansion.
The bill allowed for six new casinos to be built in the Land of Lincoln. Here are the designated regions:
- Williamson County
- South suburbs
Many applicants first submitted their materials back in October 2019. The IGB was supposed to have an answer for them within a year, but has continuously kicked the can down the road. A few times, it has blamed the applicants for the delays.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has already criticized the IGB for its slow process. And Chicago hasn’t even submitted an application yet.
With all of that said, there finally appears to be some movement on the new casino front. Hard Rock and Walker’s Bluff can be approved at any time now.