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Lynwood enters south suburban casino race with Ho-Chunk proposal

Two towns have announced bids for the new south suburban casino license, and four more could show their cards soon as a state deadline nears.

Artist’s rendering of a proposed Ho-Chunk casino in south suburban Lynwood.
Artist’s rendering of a proposed Ho-Chunk casino in south suburban Lynwood.
Provided by Ho-Chunk Nation

A second south suburb has put its cards on the table with a bid to land the area’s long-coveted, newly authorized casino.

Lynwood village board members scheduled time during their Tuesday night meeting to hear the proposal from Ho-Chunk Nation leaders who want to bring a gambling house to a parcel of land off Route 394 north of Glenwood Dyer Road.

The Wisconsin tribe’s $380 million casino proposal includes a 20-story luxury hotel plus restaurants, bars and retail space, all near the Southland Center sports complex currently operated by Ho-Chunk.

Ho-Chunk Nation District 4 Legislator Paul J. Fox
Ho-Chunk Nation District 4 Legislator Paul J. Fox.
Provided photo

“This is an important opportunity to spur economic development growth and create jobs in the south suburbs and we have a proven track record of getting it right,” Ho-Chunk Nation District 4 Legislator Paul J. Fox said in a statement. “Over the last 15 years, we have built strong relationships in the region, as demonstrated by the development and operation of the Southland Center, and we are committed to strengthening those ties and deepening that investment.”

Illinois’ gambling expansion signed into law over the summer includes six new casino licenses, with one earmarked for a handful of townships in south Cook County.

Casino developers need approval from host towns before they can apply to the Illinois Gaming Board, which has the final say on issuing licenses. Lynwood trustees are expected to vote to approve the Ho-Chunk proposal next week.

Last week, a Native American group from Alabama announced the first official bid for the south suburban casino license, pitching a site off Interstate 80 that straddles the border of Homewood and East Hazel Crest.

Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams
Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams
Brian Jackson/For The Sun-Times

Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams called the Ho-Chunk proposal “a beautiful plan” for a “family entertainment district” that has garnered the support of the neighboring towns of Ford Heights, Glenwood and Sauk Village.

“We think it’s a regional effort that’ll make this a better proposal. On both sides of 394, we’ve been missing out on economic development for years,” Williams said.

He noted other towns potentially contending for the casino are closer to two existing gambling dens in Joliet.

“We’re almost as far south and east as you can go and still be in Cook County. It’s a perfect position to get those dollars that have been driving to Indiana,” said Williams, whose town would receive 2% of the casino’s gross revenue under state law. Dozens of south suburbs will divvy up another 3% of the revenue no matter which town lands the gambling den.

Artist’s rendering of a bar and slots at a a proposed Lynwood casino.
Artist’s rendering of a bar and slots at a a proposed Lynwood casino.
Ho-Chunk Nation

Ho-Chunk Gaming runs six casinos in Wisconsin, with a seventh operation awaiting federal approval to break ground in Beloit, just across the border from Rockford — which is also getting a casino as part of Illinois’ gambling expansion.

Ho-Chunk leaders say they can get a temporary casino up and running within 11 months of state approval, with a permanent structure ready about two years after that. A third development phase would include a parking structure, golf simulator, indoor rock wall and courts for racquetball and pickleball.

The full project would create over 1,000 construction jobs and about 1,100 jobs once the permanent hotel and casino are completed, the group says.

Artist’s rendering of a proposed Lynwood casino.
Artist’s rendering of a proposed Lynwood casino.
Ho-Chunk Nation

Developers have until the end of the month to submit an application to the Gaming Board.

With the clock ticking toward that deadline, at least four other south suburbs have indicated they’ll vie for the casino, but have yet to announce a developer or proposal: Calumet City, Country Club Hills, Crestwood and Matteson.

The Gaming Board has up to a year to consider applications as long as they’re received by the end of October.