No to Bo? Gaming board deals Lynwood and Bo Jackson backed Calumet City bids out of south suburban casino game
Regulators on Wednesday advanced proposals from Matteson and a site straddling Homewood and East Hazel Crest. The final selection is expected to be made by early next year.
The south suburban casino race is down to a pair.
Nearly two years after applications were submitted to open a south suburban gambling temple, state regulators on Wednesday narrowed the field of four casino hopefuls down to two competing proposals: one at a site straddling the border of Homewood and East Hazel Crest, and another in Matteson.
The Illinois Gaming Board voted 4-0 to advance those bids and reject pitches from Calumet and Lynwood, with board chairman Charles Schmadeke saying during a virtual meeting that the culling was based on “the quality of the development presentation, and the support to and from the local community.”
The Gaming Board is expected to make a final selection for the long-coveted casino license by early 2022.
The Homewood-East Hazel Crest bid is led by Alabama-based Wind Creek Hospitality, part of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which runs 10 gambling operations in Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and the Caribbean island of Curacao. During a public presentation last week, project partners said they’d build a $300 million, 64,000-square-foot casino near 175th Street and Halsted Street off Interstate 80, along with a 21-story hotel and an entertainment center.
“This development promises to be the best in and for the entire Southland region — with job creation, economic and community investment, sustained operational excellence, and a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in all phases of construction and operation,” Wind Creek CEO Jay Dorris said in an email.
The group is represented by former gaming board general counsel Donna More, who also launched a failed bid to unseat Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in the 2020 Democratic primary election.
The Matteson bid is led by Hinsdale businessman Rob Miller and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a Native American tribe that runs 22 casinos. They’re calling for a $300 million complex at the shuttered Lincoln Mall at Lincoln Highway and Cicero Avenue. It would include a 123,000-square foot casino, 200-room hotel and a convention center, partners said.
Matteson Village President Sheila Chalmers-Currin noted that colleagues in the Southland Regional Mayoral Black Caucus voted to back her town’s bid.
“We are pleased and extremely excited,” Chalmers-Currin said. “I think the Gaming Board saw the commitment to diversity and the community in this project.”
The failed Calumet City bid was backed by two-sport legend Bo Jackson as well as suburban entrepreneur Dan Fischer — who has already landed himself a new casino in Rockford despite a Gaming Board investigation of his video gambling empire.
Earlier this month, Jackson told the Sun-Times that he was drawn to the investment group because it had committed to partnering with nearby South Suburban College on a new hospitality management program.
“Some people might look at this as a gaming casino,” he told the newspaper. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity for a lot of people, a lot of underprivileged kids.”
On Wednesday, project manager Timothy Hughes said in an email: “We are disappointed that our proposal — which would open 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 — was deemed insufficient to proceed to the next round.”
The Ho-Chunk Nation was behind the Lynwood proposal, which was opposed by Mayor Jada Curry, who took office a year and a half into the slow-moving selection process. Representatives for the group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Gaming Board is also weighing two finalists for a new casino license earmarked for north suburban Waukegan. Las Vegas developer Full House Resorts is up against Lakeside Casino LLC, a company led by former Grayslake state Sen. Michael Bond, who already has his own video gaming company. A selection is also expected by early next year.
It’s all part of the massive gambling expansion signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019 that promises to add six casinos to Illinois’ current field of 10. The Rockford casino and another in downstate Williamson County have already received preliminary approvals. Another is in the pipeline for Danville, and applications to run a Chicago megacasino are due to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office by next week.
The two remaining south suburban bidders are expected to address the Gaming Board at a special meeting next week.