Illinois Gaming Board selects two finalists for Chicago Southland casino



llinois officials have narrowed the number of proposals for a new casino in Chicago’s south suburbs to just two. One of the bids would see the creation of a venue near the border of Homewood and East Hazel Crest, proposed by Alabama-based Wind Creek Hospitality; while the second one would locate it in Matteson, pitched by Hinsdale businessman Rob Miller and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Applicants for the state license are set to make a presentation to the Illinois Gaming Board in a special meeting in the coming days, reports Chicago Sun-Times, while the final selection for a winning bid will happen next year.

The decision to narrow down Chicago’s south suburbs casino applications comes nearly two years after bids were first submitted. Last Wednesday, regulators opted to advance those two pitches while rejecting applications from Calumet and Lynwood, in a 4-0 voting. According to board chairman Charles Schmadeke, the decision was based on “the quality of the development presentation, and the support to and from the local community.”

The Homewood-East Hazel Crest proposal is led by the gaming arm of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which runs 10 gambling operations in Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Curacao.

According to plans presented during a public presentation, the bid entails a $300 million project near 175th Street and Halsted Street off Interstate 80, with a 64,000-square foot casino. It would also include a 21-story hotel, plus an entertainment center.

“This development promises to be the best in and for the entire Southland region,” said Wind Creek CEO Jay Dorris. He further stated it would contribute to job creation, and economic and community investment, while sustaining operational excellence and supporting “a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in all phases of construction and operation.”

On the other hand, the Matteson bid sees input from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a tribe which already runs 22 casinos. On their pitch in collaboration with Miller, they propose a $300 million complex at the Lincoln Mall at Lincoln Highway and Cicero Avenue. The venue would feature a 123,000-square foot casino, a 200-room hotel, and a convention center.

The failed Calumet City bid was backed by sports legend Bo Jackson and entrepreneur Dan Fischer. Upon the Gaming Board’s decision to leave the pitch out of the race, project manager Timothy Hughes said: “We are disappointed that our proposal was deemed insufficient to proceed to the next round.”

The project would have seen the opening of a temporary casino in 90 days “to immediately begin revitalizing the economic engine of Calumet City”, and had “extensive community support plus a strong operator with a proven track record,” further said Hughes, according to Chicago Sun-Times.

The Ho-Chunk Nation was behind the Lynwood proposal, which hasn’t commented on the decision taken by the state officials. The pitch was opposed by Mayor Jada Curry.

The Southland casino will not be the only one joining the state’s gaming industry. As part of a major gambling expansion, Gob. J.B. Pritzker signed in 2019 for six new venues to be added to the state’s current 10.

A north suburban Waukegan license is pairing Las Vegas-based developer Full House Resorts against former state Sen. Michael Bond-backed Lakeside Casino LLC, with a selection expected by early 2022.

Moreover, casino proposals in Rockford and Williamson County have both received initial approval, while Danville is also advancing its selection process. Chicago also issued an RFP (request for proposals) for a huge gaming venue, but the deadline has been pushed to October 29 to further leave room for new pitches.

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