The three players in the high-stakes competition for Illinois' unused 10th casino license showed their hands Tuesday, laying out key details of plans to build a new gambling destination in either Des Plaines, Rosemont or Waukegan.
Executives from three gaming companies publicly presented their bids at an Illinois Gaming Board meeting, promising to deliver loads of much-needed tax revenue for the state, money-sharing arrangements that would benefit other communities and jobs to put people to work.
The gaming board has said a winning bidder will be chosen by the end of the year for the casino license that is back in play after languishing in legal limbo for years.
The three finalists are Trilliant Gaming for Rosemont, Waukegan Gaming and Midwest Gaming & Entertainment for Des Plaines.
Trilliant's bid is the highest with an upfront licensing fee of $435 million, followed by Waukegan Gaming at $225 million and Midwest Gaming at $100 million.
Rosemont worked hard to put distance between itself and the gaming company that's looking to build a casino in the village, a Chicago suburb near O'Hare International Airport that has spent years trying to lure one amid allegations of possible mob ties.
The village intends to pass ordinances prohibiting Rosemont employees from working for Trilliant Gaming, the village mayor and board members won't be able to gamble there, and vendors who do business with Rosemont can't do business with the casino, Mayor Bradley Stephens said.
"Transparency, complete transparency," said Stephens, who became mayor after his father, Mayor Donald Stephens, died last year.
Back in 2004 when Rosemont angled for the state's 10th casino, Attorney General Lisa Madigan questioned whether the suburb and Donald Stephens had ties to organized crime, something the late mayor denied.
Emerald Casino Inc. and then Isle of Capri Casino Inc. wanted to open a casino in Rosemont but legal and administrative disputes kept it from ever being built and the state gaming board rebid the license.
Trilliant CEO Alex Yemenidjian said his company had done deep due diligence in advance of what he hopes will be a new casino in Rosemont.
"All of the concerns related to other times and other people and none of those conditions exist today," Yemenidjian said.
As part of the deal, Rosemont also is relinquishing all of its gaming taxes and admissions fees and most of that money will be redistributed to 70 Cook County municipalities, said Trilliant spokesman Laurent Pernot.
Gaming board member the Rev. Eugene Winkler said he was bothered by the revenue-sharing agreement because it didn't include some needy communities.
Trilliant inherited the agreement with 70 communities that Rosemont entered into more than a dozen years ago, Yemenidjian said.
Midwest Gaming & Entertainment, which wants to bring a casino to the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, was asked about why its bid was so much lower than Rosemont's.
"We can't understand how they came up with their bid," said Neil Bluhm, Midwest's chairman.
Compared to Trilliant's upfront licensing fee of $435 million, Midwest has offered $100 million and, it was disclosed on Tuesday, another proposed $100 million that would be payable over time at about $10 million per year. But those payments could be spread out or put on hold until revenues improved if state law was changed to raise the casino tax rate or if lawmakers created more competition by authorizing more casinos, said Midwest CEO Greg Carlin.
"We are your least risky bet," Bluhm said.
Waukegan Mayor Richard Hyde made a heartfelt plea for a casino in his northern Illinois city that sits near the Wisconsin state line, saying it would help revitalize a town that has seen other good-paying jobs disappear and speed up redevelopment of its downtown lakefront.
"Imagine what 1,200 casino jobs with good wages and health care benefits would mean for these neighborhoods," he said.