The finalists vying to build Waukegan’s first casino made their pitches before city officials on Wednesday in a meeting that had to be moved to a large theatre due to heavy interest in the proposals.
The meeting, which lasted for several hours, saw a total of six different finalists make their pitches on why their vision for the future casino would be the best way forward for the city.
“We believe strongly that we are the best partner for Waukegan,” Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs, said.
The winning bid will be built on a 32-acre tract of land known as Fountain Square. The casino project would be a game-changer, officials believe, with hundreds of new jobs and tens of millions of dollars in new revenue.
The audience included employees of several groups vying for the project, including the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. The owners of that casino are one of the bidding parties interested in the facility.
“Trust me when I tell you: no company has ever believed in me like Rivers believes in me,” employee Felicia Dixon said.
Only a handful of residents showed up to oppose the proposed casino, citing the chance of an increase in crime, debt, and lowered standards of living.
As for the officials themselves, they seemed surprised at the bidders’ intense interest and highly-stylized bids.
“We haven’t seen fatal flaws in these proposals,” casino consultant Charlie Johnson said.
While some expressed concern about what impact the proposed casino could have on venues like the Genesee Theater, which hosted Wednesday’s meeting, every finalist pledged that their presence would have only positive impacts on local venues, and that it would draw more visitors than ever to Waukegan.
The final selection will be made next month.