Danville and Other Communities Still Await Illinois Gaming Board Action on Casino Applications

Posted on: July 16, 2020, 09:53h. 

Last updated on: July 17, 2020, 10:07h.

The next meeting of the Illinois Gaming Board is scheduled to take place in two weeks. But for now, it’s uncertain whether the board will use the meeting to make decisions on any of the pending casino license applications.

Illinois casinos Await Decision
Will the Illinois Gaming Board start welcoming new casinos to the state as soon as this month? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks, as the agenda for the July 30 meeting is unveiled. A law passed last year increased the number of licensed casinos in the state, and the IGB is reviewing applications from five communities across the state. (Image: PrairieStateWire.com)

IGB spokesman Gene O’Shea told Casino.org on Thursday that the agenda for the July 30 meeting will be released two days in advance.

The board’s plate certainly is full, thanks to COVID-19 keeping its members from holding meetings during the spring. It met on June 11 for the first time since Jan. 30.

Besides the new casino licenses, which were created through the state’s expanded gaming law passed last year, the board must also wade through several sports betting license applications. Last month, in a statement to The Center Square, IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter noted the agency’s responsibilities have more than doubled over the past year. Since October, the board’s staff has been doing due diligence on 10 casino applications in addition to other responsibilities.

The five communities that received a casino through the 2019 law are Danville, Rockford, Waukegan, Williamson County, and Chicago’s south suburbs. In addition, Downtown Chicago will also receive a casino resort, and the state’s racetracks will be allowed to seek casino gaming as well.

The board has until October to act on the applications. In addition, on June 30, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law that requires the IGB to reopen the process for the communities selected to receive a casino if there are no pending applications.

Uncertainty in Danville

The current Danville application remains in limbo. During its January meeting, the IGB voted not to allow the applicant for that casino license, Haven Gaming, to revise what one board member called a less than bare-bones application.

A lawyer for Haven told the board that some of the participants in Haven changed in the lead-up to the Oct. 28 submission deadline.

Among those involved in Haven is Kathryn Solomon, who, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s business search site, is a manager for the company. Solomon is a resident of Wonder Lake, Ill., a northern Chicago suburb. She’s also listed as the manager for Robbins Crestwood Gaming.

Robbins Crestwood was considering seeking the license for Chicago’s south suburbs casino as late as mid-October, according to the Chicago Tribune. However, just before the deadline, the mayor of Crestwood told the Chicago Sun-Times the group his community supported backed away at the last minute after concerns about the non-refundable $250,000 application fee.

Others involved in Haven Gaming are Bill Bembenek, a former CEO of the Pala Casino Spa and Resort in California, and Illinois-based gaming attorney Scott Sypolt.

Attempts to reach Haven for comment were unsuccessful. However, as recently as late May, Sypolt told the Danville Commercial-News that the group is self-funded and ready to start work immediately once they get the go-ahead from the IGB.

It remains unclear as to what may happen with Danville’s license if the IGB denies Haven’s application. While the city will retain it based on the law Pritzker signed last month, it’s uncertain if Danville would look to or even be able to retain Haven, or if city officials must look for another partner.

O’Shea said the IGB does not comment on pending applications.

Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. told Casino.org he would refrain from comment until the IGB acts.

Delays Could Be Costly

The longer it takes for Danville to wait for guidance from the state, the more it could potentially suffer in a high-stakes game of casino development.

The central Illinois community sits right on the Indiana state line. In fact, Haven’s proposed site for a casino backs up to the border, and it’s not the only community in the region putting a wager on a casino.

In May, the Indiana Gaming Commission approved a license for a casino in Terre Haute, which is about an hour south. Spectacle Jack expects to break ground on that casino, which Hard Rock will operate, in September, with a planned opening a year later.

Danville’s not the only Illinois community playing the waiting game while a nearby competitor is in a position to move forward. Up in Rockford, that city waits on the state to approve the group that wants to build a Hard Rock casino in the community 90 minutes west of Chicago.

However, less than 20 minutes away, the town of Beloit, Wis., is waiting on Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to sign off on a $400 million tribal casino resort project that’s already received federal approval.

And the casino project that gets approval for Chicago southern suburbs will face competition from Hard Rock Northern Indiana, a $400 million project currently under construction in Gary.