Suburban Leaders React After Homewood/East Hazel Crest Casino Bid Allowed to Move Forward

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A joint bid to build a casino in the south suburbs was given preliminary approval on Wednesday, while another suburb saw its hopes of building a new casino dashed by the state gaming board.

For more than five years, there’s been uncertainty surrounding multiple proposals to build a casino south of the city of Chicago, and on Wednesday it was announced by the Illinois Gaming Board that a joint bid from the villages of Homewood and East Hazel Crest, in conjunction with Wind Creek Hospitality, was the winner and will be allowed to move forward.

The ambitious plan will call for a casino, hotel and entertainment center, and will be located near Interstate 80 on Halsted Street.

“I understand the importance of revenue to the state, so I’ve always felt that if our best effort was to stop Illinois residents from going to Indiana, that this was the best location,” State Rep. Will David said.

Jay Dorris, who represented Wind Creek during Wednesday’s vote, said that the communities involved in the project are aiming to accomplish something that will benefit all neighboring areas in the coming years.

“Our site is in both villages, and both the mayors of those villages have been great to work with,” he said. “They’ve been adamant this is going to benefit the entire southland.”

Final licensing approval is still needed at the location, but Wednesday’s announcement marked a major step forward for the project.

In nearby Matteson, feelings of disappointment were in the air as their proposal failed to win approval to move forward.

“(It would have been) the very first gaming project in Illinois history that would have been 100% owned by minorities, women and veterans,” developer Rob Miller said.

Sheila Chalmbers-Currin, Matteson’s village president, said that they were disappointed with the results of the vote.

“We all know why we’re doing this, in reference to diversity and to economic growth,” she said. “The impact would have been enormous.”

Davis says that the project will benefit numerous south-suburban communities, and that diversity was an important part of their pitch as well.

“If it’s diversity, meaning the communities (involved), Homewood and East Hazel Crest are diverse communities as well,” he said.

Several other casino projects also received pushes forward this week, as Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts was selected to run a long-planned casino in suburban Waukegan.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker attended the groundbreaking of another casino project in southern Illinois as construction began on the Walker’s Bluff Resort and Casino in Carterville.

The facility will include a 116-room hotel, with a gaming floor, event center and multiple restaurants, according to the governor’s office.

“Walker’s Bluff was already a popular attraction, bringing in tourists and business meetings from across the region,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Now, with the addition of hundreds of slot machines and game tables, and an on-site hotel, this expansion will bring in even more visitors to take advantage of the beauty and hospitality of southern Illinois.”

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