State gambling regulators on Thursday dealt Matteson village officials a fresh hand in their bid for a coveted new south suburban casino license after residents in neighboring Frankfort railed against the initial proposed location.
The development team vying for the license will instead aim to set up shop at the shuttered Lincoln Mall at Lincoln Highway and Cicero Avenue in Matteson, after the Illinois Gaming Board voted to allow them to amend the application they submitted three months ago.
South Suburban Development LLC, which is led by Hinsdale investor Rob Miller and championed by Matteson Village President Sheila Chalmers-Currin, had initially pitched a site on an undeveloped plot near Lincoln and Harlem Avenue.
But after the Matteson group submitted an application for its $300 million proposal to the Gaming Board in October, several neighboring community groups and the Frankfort Township Board publicly slammed the casino plan for being “directly adjacent to two schools and three densely populated residential subdivisions.” A junior high school and elementary are each within about a mile of Harlem and Lincoln.
That sent the Matteson group back to the drawing board, proposing an alternate site about three miles east, a vacant Carson Pirie Scott store at the former Lincoln Mall. But the developers say the main components of their proposal, backed by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, will shift smoothly to the new location.
“If it wasn’t for that, if it wasn’t for that vocal opposition to that site, we wouldn’t be here asking for your amendment,” Miller told the Gaming Board on Thursday before board members voted unanimously to allow the change.
Frankfort Township Supervisor Jim Moustis said they were happy with the new spot, which is separated by about a mile and a half from the nearest school. “Lincoln Mall is exactly the site that should have been considered.”
The Matteson group is competing against casino development pitches from three other south suburban locales, all fighting for the lone license: Calumet City, Lynwood and another straddling the border of Homewood and East Hazel Crest.
And Matteson wasn’t the only casino group looking to update its application on Thursday.
Haven Gaming LLC, which is trying to land a casino license for Danville in eastern Illinois, sought approval to revise its application with “corrections and updates to forms” and to identify more investors and “key persons,” but Gaming Board members voted to deny the request.
A visibly miffed Gaming Board Chairman Charles Schmadeke slammed the group’s initial application as less than “bare bones.”
A lawyer for the Danville group said they were disappointed in the vote but would “follow the process the Gaming Board lays out for us.”