Illinois gambling regulators named Full House Resorts of Las Vegas to develop a casino in Waukegan and chose Wind Creek Hospitality for another site in Homewood and East Hazel Crest, moving forward a selection process that took more than two years.
The Illinois Gaming Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to give preliminary approval for the two casino developments, allowing them to start laying the groundwork for the projects. The regulators rejected a bid from Lakeside LLC, a company led by former Senator Michael Bond, for the Waukegan casino, as well as a proposal to build a casino in suburban Matteson.
The decisions aren’t yet final, according to Marcus Fruchter, the gaming board’s administrator. He said in September that winners could be allowed to break ground as early as January.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a state gambling law in 2019, creating six casino licenses. Hard Rock resort in Rockford received preliminary approval from the gaming board in February. Regulators said in September that a casino in Williamson County could break ground, and they are still reviewing Danville’s casino bid after an initial proposal fell through. A developer for a casino in the city of Chicago itself hasn’t yet been chosen.
Full House is behind the $400 million Waukegan proposal, which will bring a casino at American Place as well as a boutique hotel and an entertainment venue. It will be developed on a 28-acre city-owned site bordered by Lakehurst Road and Northpoint Boulevard.
The $440 million casino proposal by Alabama’s Wind Creek would be a 64,000-square-foot casino with a 21-story hotel just off Interstate 80 near 175th and Halsted streets. Wind Creek is part of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which runs 10 gambling operations across the country and the Caribbean Island of Curacao.
While the gaming board’s vote was scheduled for Nov. 18, the Potawatomi Waukegan Casino, which was rejected for Waukegan, requested a temporary restraining order. A Cook County judge dismissed the request on Tuesday, saying the company, owned by Wisconsin’s Forest County Potawatomi Community, doesn’t have standing under Illinois’s gambling law.
Four bidders including Potawatomi asked Waukegan’s city council to approve their requests two years ago. After Potawatomi did not get the greenlight, it sued Waukegan in federal court, alleging that the city “manipulated” the process to favor a “political benefactor” of some city officials. The case is pending in Chicago’s federal court.