Danville, Ill. Council Approves Zoning Request for Casino Over Objections by Neighboring Business

Posted on: September 16, 2020, 12:50h. 

Last updated on: September 17, 2020, 05:57h.

The city of Danville, Ill., took a step toward sending another casino license application to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) on Tuesday when the City Council voted to rezone property targeted by the Wilmorite Management Group. However, in doing so, the aldermen went against the local zoning board, which recommended denying the request.

Danville Illinois Casino
The Danville, Ill. city council rejected the recommendation of the city’s zoning board and moved forward with a change that will allow the Wilmorite Management Group to proceed with its $100 million casino proposal in the city. (Image: Pinterest)

The Council voted 10-0, with two abstentions and two other members absent, to change the property from its industrial-use designation. The 10 votes were the minimum needed to supersede the zoning board’s recommendation.

The change also came over the objection of a Danville business that owns property next to the building slated to house the casino. However, city leaders said they felt the opportunity to bring jobs and revenue into the community warranted the change.

I believe we’ve got an opportunity that we have to seize, actually, and we need to get our application into the gaming board as soon as possible,” Alderman Tom Stone said. “And this would seem to me to be the fastest route.

“I know our community needs this facility really bad. It helps us in so many ways. It helps us with our police and fire pensions. It helps us with our infrastructure. I just don’t think we can doddle around and fool around with this thing. We have to just take what we can get right now.”

Board Questioned Casino Location

What the city gets is a $100 million investment to transform the vacant building on the site into a casino that will have 500 slot machines, 10 table games, and other amenities. That’s less than half the gaming seats Haven Gaming proposed for the city last year when leaders approved a plan for a casino closer to Interstate 74.

However, Haven’s application was met with criticism by the IGB for the lack of detail. The group also went through changes in the investment and leadership team, but the board refused to allow the company to revise its application.

Ultimately, in July, the board allowed Haven to pull its application instead of denying it outright. By that point, Wilmorite, which had joined with Haven earlier in the year, had bought out the remaining Haven members and began work on the new proposal.

The Danville council voted last month to back Wilmorite’s plan, which required the zoning change, as the project now is targeted for a different site, at least initially. However, the zoning board voted 5-1 against the request, saying the casino would not fit in with the industrial businesses surrounding it.

Prior to Tuesday’s council meeting, Janice Sherman, Wilmorite’s director of marketing and public relations, told Casino.org that the company had no intention to change its plans because of the zoning board’s decision.

Local Business Opposes Casino Plan

On Tuesday, council members and Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. received a letter from a lawyer representing a local business owner opposed to the casino in Wilmorite’s planned location.

Mervis Industries operates a scrap metal processing facility that is next to the planned casino site. According to its attorney, that area is not safe for pedestrians and the casino would impact vehicular traffic and businesses in the immediate area.

Moreover, the Property is not even the best site for which a proposal for casino gaming operations in Danville has been submitted,” Christopher O’Malley wrote to city leaders.

O’Malley urged the city to reconsider using land held by another company, Vermillion Development, that has ample room for a larger casino and is more appropriate for that type of business. However, council members said Tuesday they’ve had an impasse with Vermillion since last year when its representatives encouraged the city to partner with a Minnesota tribe seeking the casino license.

A message to O’Malley on Wednesday seeking comment on the vote and Mervis’ next steps was not returned.