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Five Card Draw? Calumet City, Crestwood join three others in crowded south suburban casino race

Five suburbs are now vying for one casino license authorized under Illinois’ massive gambling expansion.

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Southland Live Casino in Calumet City.
Artist’s rendering of the proposed Southland Live Casino in Calumet City.
Delaware North Gaming

It’s now a full house looking to land a south suburban casino jackpot.

Officials from Calumet City and Crestwood announced proposals Thursday for the new suburban gambling den authorized under Illinois’ massive gaming expansion, bringing the number of competing bids to five.

Delaware North Gaming plans to lay out its proposal at a Calumet City council meeting Friday to bring the so-called Southland Live Casino to the River Oaks Center mall near Torrence Avenue and River Oaks Drive — a site off Interstate 80/94/294 described as “uniquely positioned” to draw gamblers from Illinois and Indiana.

“River Oaks Center has been an economic anchor of the southeast suburbs for more than half a century, but it needs this exciting casino destination to bring it back to its former glory,” project manager Timothy Hughes said in a statement. “Equally important, Southland Live Casino will fulfill a longstanding goal of establishing a south suburban casino to provide an economic infusion for a predominantly minority community.”

Site plan for the proposed Southland Live Casino in Calumet City.
Site plan for the proposed Southland Live Casino in Calumet City.
Delaware North Gaming

Their 150,000-square-foot casino would be a $275 million investment on a 20-acre site near a Macy’s store, with 1,235 gaming positions plus a music venue, restaurants and an 18-floor hotel.

Delaware North says it’ll create 1,200 construction jobs and eventually 1,150 part-and full-time jobs, raking in more than $200 million annually and generating up to $50 million in taxes.

State law sets aside 5% of the casino’s gross revenue for the host communities — with 3% being divided among dozens of south suburbs. That would come out to upwards of $4 million for Calumet City and $6 million for the additional suburbs annually.

They say their plan has the support of the neighboring towns of Burnham, Dolton, Lansing and South Holland. Calumet City Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush could not be reached for comment.

Rendering of the interior of the proposed Southland Live Casino.
Rendering of the interior of the proposed Southland Live Casino.
Delaware North Gaming

Calumet City has pushed for a casino several times during gambling expansion talks dating back to the 1990s, most recently losing out in 2008 for the license that eventually went to Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

Delaware North runs several casinos nationwide, including Jumer’s in Rock Island. They say they could have a temporary site up at a vacant Carson Pirie Scott store in the mall within 90 days of Illinois Gaming Board approval.

Also on Thursday, officials in Crestwood were set to approve a casino proposal for Gaming Board consideration — but wouldn’t show their full hand.

Crestwood Village Services director Bill Graffeo said the suburb had partnered with a development group established as Robbins Crestwood Gaming LLC.

The group’s partners didn’t want to identify themselves ahead of a public announcement in the weeks ahead, according to Graffeo, who described it as a minority-owned development group “with a lot of national gaming experience.”

State records only listed the agent and manager of Robbins Crestwood Gaming as Kathryn Marie Solomon of far northwest suburban Wonder Lake.

They’re pitching a $400 million resort and casino on a 46-acre site at Cicero Avenue and Cal Sag Road. Casino gaming would make up only about a third of the offerings, Graffeo said, with plans for family attractions including a concert venue, restaurants, pools and a walking path and picnic area.

”This is going to be a destination point for the entire area,” Graffeo said.

Crestwood has secured the support of nearby Robbins, with an agreement for Crestwood to raze 150 vacant homes in Robbins and clean up the lots for the casino group to build new homes and help find buyers, Graffeo said.

Rendering of the proposed Calumet City casino.
Rendering of the proposed Calumet City casino.
Delaware North Gaming

The Calumet City and Crestwood casino bids come as officials have forwarded proposals for three other suburban sites over the last two weeks — and with the clock running out for any other would-be casino developers to apply to state regulators for the license.

Wind Creek Hospitality wants to bring the casino to 175th Street and Halsted along the border of Homewood and East Hazel Crest; the Ho-Chunk Nation is pushing to set up shop near Route 394 and Glenwood Dyer Road in Lynwood; and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is looking to launch at Lincoln Highway and Harlem Avenue in Matteson.

Country Club Hills Mayor James Ford previously said his city would partner with a developer and join the fray, but no formal proposal has been put forward. He did not return messages seeking comment Thursday.

Applications must be submitted to the Illinois Gaming Board by the end of the month. The agency then has a year to award a casino license.