Casino Royale

A new suburban casino could impact Chicago's plans to roll the dice

While plans for a Chicago casino remain at a legislative standstill - and it looks like one long-rumored site can be scratched off the list -  looks like a new gambling emporium is likely to be approved soon for one of several competing Chicago suburbs.

The Illinois Gaming Board is expected to choose three finalists from seven bidders for the state's lone available casino license in the next few weeks.

The competitors:

* Rosemont. This bid has to be considered the favorite; it's on the same site that political fixers tried to place a casino that became the subject of years of litigation after it was rejected for alleged mob ties. It's also the highest bid by far at $435 million.

* Waukegan. Waukegan has made a strong push over the years for a project that would be placed near the Lakehurst Mall. Unlike Rosemont, Waukegan could make the case that it qualifies as a distressed city in need of an economic boost. The Waukegan team is also promising to be up and running in a year.

* Harvey. Probably the most distressed location and the most unappealing.

* Des Plaines. Like Waukegan and Rosemont, Des Plaines has been in the running for years and is probably a good bet to join the other two as a finalist. Chicago billionaire developer Neil Bluhm is behind the bid, which would put an entertainment complex at the site of the Revere Mills building.

* Stickney. The proposed Champions Casino & Resort would sit on a refurbished Hawthorne Race Course and include a water park, an amphiteater, and the state's largest sports bar. That's why we have Coach Mike Ditka as part of this project," Tim Carey, the president of Hawthorne, told the Casino City Times. The dark horse to make it into the finals - especially if the gaming board tosses Des Plaines out in favor of geographical diversity.

* Calumet City. Developers hold the exclusive rights to reproduce buildings from the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago - and intend to do so.

* Country Club Hills. Includes Chicago developer Michael Reschke, but the lowest bid and an unlikely finalist.

And what of Chicago? If a casino were awarded to, say, Rosemont, it's likely the chances of Chicago also moving forward with a casino would be diminished, given the competition. A Rosemont casino, adjacent to O'Hare and the Kennedy Expressway, would to some extent be a Chicago casino, though the city wouldn't get the full benefit of revenues it would from its own downtown casino. On the other hand, the mayor might just as well prefer to feast off Rosemont's crumbs and leave them any headaches the casino might bring. If the gaming board chooses, say, Waukegan, Daley would be more likely to press forward with a casino plan of his own.

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