Full House Resorts to Receive Extension to Open Permanent Waukegan Casino

Posted on: November 20, 2023, 04:31h. 

Last updated on: November 20, 2023, 04:56h.

Full House Resorts is finalizing plans to build a $400 million casino resort in Waukegan, Ill., called American Place. But a lawsuit brought by the Forest County Potawatomi Community against the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) and the City of Waukegan has delayed ground being broken on the gaming destination that plans to target and cater to VIP players.

Full House Resorts American Place Waukegan Illinois
An artist’s rendering of American Place in Waukegan. The project from Full House Resorts is expected to receive an extension because of a lawsuit challenging the project being approved by state and city officials. (Image: Full House Resorts)

Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts won Waukegan’s competitive bidding process for the city’s lone gaming license in 2021. That December, the company’s American Place project was greenlit by the IGB.

Under the gaming law passed in 2019, casinos are allowed to open temporary gaming facilities during construction of their permanent resorts. Full House opened “The Temporary by American Place” with slot machines and table games on Feb. 17, 2023. Sports betting was added last month.

Illinois gaming law requires that temporary casinos operate for a maximum of two years, meaning American Place must open by Feb. 17, 2025.

Lawsuit Wins Appeal

The Forest County Potawatomi Community is a federally recognized tribe that owns and operates the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee. The Native American community had hoped to expand its economic portfolio with its first commercial casino by way of Waukegan, some 45 air miles south of its sovereign community.

A third-party consultant who reviewed the city’s casino bids ranked the Potawatomi pitch first or second in every category against the three other bids. But, since the tribe offered the least amount of money for the Fountain Square Shopping Center where American Place will be built, city officials dismissed the tribe’s pitch early on in the bidding process.

Tribal attorneys allege in litigation filed in Cook County that the bidding process was “rigged” and “a sham.” The tribe accuses then-Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham of telling city councilors which bids to favor.

Cook County Judge Cecilia Horan dismissed the tribe’s lawsuit in December 2021. But as Full House finalized American Place this past August and presented the resort blueprint to city planning and zoning officials, the Potawatomi’s appeal was granted by the First District Appellate Court.

The appellate court’s decision to consider the case halted Full House from beginning construction. Attorneys representing the IGB and Waukegan have appealed the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, but a ruling from the state’s highest court isn’t expected until January.

Full House isn’t involved in the Potawatomi lawsuit.

Project on Hold

The Illinois General Assembly earlier this month passed legislation that would amend the 2019 gaming law to allow for extensions of a temporary casino’s operations if certain conditions are met.

The bill is designed specifically to allow The Temporary by American Place to continue operating past Feb. 17, 2025, now that the date looks unattainable for the permanent resort to be ready. Gov. JB Pritzker (D) is expected to sign the measure when it arrives on his desk.

Full House Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer Alex Stolyar said the company cannot obtain financing while litigation on the project is ongoing.

Everything is on pause until the litigation is resolved against the city and the state,” he explained.

American Palace is to feature “upscale gaming” for the “most discerning players.” Along with high-end restaurants and a 1,500-seat entertainment center, the resort will offer a 20-room, all-suite hotel “designed specifically for the casino’s VIP gamers.” The hospitality segment, dubbed The Mansion, will also include private villas ranging up to 2,500 square feet.