The robust expansion of the Illinois gambling industry has led the state’s gaming board to grant two new casino licenses to communities on the outskirts of Chicago — though the city itself still waits for the first casino to open within its city limits.
On Wednesday, the Illinois Gaming Board approved Wind Creek Hospitality, a subsidiary of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, to build a casino straddling the villages of Homewood and East Hazel Crest in Chicago’s southern suburbs. The IGB also gave the green light to a location in Waukegan, about 40 miles north of Chicago, where Full House Resorts was chosen among five operators submitting proposals.
The combined East Hazel Crest/Homewood proposal beat out another from the Matteson neighborhood, likely in part because of the former location’s proximity to Interstate 80. The Waukegan casino will be built in the Fountain Square area on property owned by the city, Chicago’s WLS-TV reported.
Illinois gambling establishments have no online casino game options yet but residents can place online sports bets if they register with a brick-and-mortar casino. The state's General Assembly, however, passed a bill in October that will eliminate the need for in-person registration by no later than March 5, 2022.
“Throughout this process, we have reiterated the belief that we offer the best location in and for the south suburban region,” Wind Creek Hospitality president Jay Dorris said in a statement, “and will deliver on our commitments to job creation, community and economic investment, sustained operational excellence, and a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in all phases of construction and operation.”
The Wind Creek facility is projected to open in 2023, Dorris added. The $440 million, 64,000-square-foot project was chosen for the south side’s lone casino license over a proposed $300 million South Suburban Development endeavor that would have been managed by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, according to a report in Tribal Business News.
The Wind Creek proposal would include a 21-story hotel with a rooftop balcony offering views of the Chicago skyline, as well as restaurants and bars, WGN-TV reported. The project is expected to create 800 full-time jobs and generate revenues of over $150 million in its first year.
The Waukegan project, called American Place, is slated to include a casino and sportsbook, a boutique hotel comprised of 20 villas ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet with butler service, a 1,500-seat entertainment venue, and restaurants and bars. A second phase of American Place is expected to include a luxury hotel with 150 rooms.
Full House Resorts said it plans to have a temporary gaming facility up and running by mid-2022. The $400 million permanent facility is expected to open in 2024, Full House Resorts president Daniel R. Lee said in a release. American Place will even include a helicopter landing pad, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.
This type of plan is not unusual – in Rockford, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago, a temporary Hard Rock Casino opened in November even as plans develop for a permanent facility just a few blocks away.
Meanwhile the wait continues for a first casino within the city limits of Chicago itself. The city solicited requests for proposals through Oct. 29, after which it identified five competing submissions — two each by Bally’s and Rivers, and one by Hard Rock — to build a gaming facility at locations ranging from the South Loop to near Soldier Field.
The city is expected to make a final recommendation to the Illinois Gaming Board in early 2022, according to the Sun-Times.
Earlier this week, the Chicago City Council's License and Zoning Committees adjourned without voting on an ordinance that would allow for sports betting at Chicago professional sports venues in exchange for a 2% tax on betting transactions.