October has been a lively period for the greater Chicago area, as multiple communities expressed their desire to be a part of the gaming renaissance Illinois is currently going through. Governor J. B. Pritzker changed everything by signing a bill that expanded opportunities for both players and operators. Since then, Cook County has been in the center of it all, with as much as five communities applying for a license. Now we have a sixth contender.
Country Club Hills, the minuscule community in Chicago’s suburbs, teamed up with New York-based Spreads Group to hand in a plan for a new casino. Apparently, their intention is to erect a state-of-the-art venue along I-80, on 200 acres of land. As candidates for the sole casino license have to submit proposals until the end of October, the competition is getting tight, with no apparent favorite.
Not What They Had in Mind
James Ford, the mayor of Country Club Hills, stated that they did not wish to enter the competition at first. This fits the general consensus about the submission of their proposal to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB). Industry experts viewed it as a great surprise and were perplexed at first, but Ford cleared things up. According to the mayor himself, they were reluctant to vie for the license because of the proximity of Tinley Park.
What was the problem here, exactly? Well, there were plans to sell state land to this community so that they could build a racino. With the obvious fear of competition, it made sense not to answer when others threw down the gauntlet. However, everything changed when the Governor stopped the transaction. As per the Chicago Sun-Times, it was revealed that Rick Heidner, an important name in involved in the racino plan, had federal warrants issued against him.
Albeit unplanned, this move is a testament to the volatility of the gaming industry. As Mr. Heidner was the subject of a corruption probe, an opportunity was handed to Country Club Hills and they decided to make the best out of it. Without a racino in the way, they don’t have to worry about the competition ruining their venture.
The Future is Bright
At least six new casinos will grace the skyline of Illinois in the near future, due to much more liberal legislative measures being applied. Rockford will house the new Hard Rock casino and resort, while the communities of Danville and Waukegan have also joined in on the fun. A novelty for the locals will also be the presence of a casino in the suburbs of Chicago, most definitely in Cook County. Not only will this bring tourists to the area, but Chicagoans won’t have to venture to Indiana anymore.
And who benefits the most from this? County officials, without a doubt. No matter where the casino will be located, Cook County will receive 2% of the venue’s annual profits. Some potential operators, such as the Choctaw Nation, have also agreed to relinquish an additional percentage of their earnings to the adjacent communities. This will certainly affect the IGB’s assessment of the competition.
According to Governor Pritzker, the whole state is set to earn $350 million from gaming in 2020, but experts believe that this number will pale in comparison to those in the near future.
Once all proposals are submitted to the IGB, the review process will start. Legislators have successfully ensured that all security and background checks are more thorough than ever. A gross estimate of the duration of the process would be six months or more. Until we hear from the authorities, there is no way to predict who will take home the crown in Cook County.