Illinois Gaming Board Allows Haven to Pull Danville Casino Application

Posted on: July 30, 2020, 09:27h. 

Last updated on: July 31, 2020, 09:35h.

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) on Thursday voted to let Haven Gaming withdraw its application for a casino in Danville, giving the company a chance to resubmit its paperwork at a later date.

Haven Danville Casino
Illinois Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter talks to board members during Thursday’s video meeting. The IGB approved a request from Haven Gaming to withdraw its application to operate a casino in Danville. (Image: IGB video)

The board spent just five minutes on the matter, and no one from the company spoke during the meeting, which was held via remote video conference.

IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter told the board members that Haven’s application would have come up for discussion at its March 12 meeting. But that meeting was canceled because of the then-emerging COVID-19 crisis. Had the meeting proceeded, the staff’s recommendation would have been to find Haven unsuitable for a license.

That’s because the company’s initial application was considered insufficient, and at a January board meeting, the IGB denied Haven a chance to amend its application. The issue was slated to come up at Thursday’s hearing, and the staff was ready to make the same recommendation, Fruchter said. However, on Monday, Haven submitted a request to pull its application.

Allowing Haven to withdraw the application is in the best interest of the public, the gaming industry, and the city of Danville,” said Fruchter prior to the board voting unanimously to approve the request.

IGB Chairman Charles Schmadeke said just before the roll call he was inclined to agree with the staff’s recommendation.

A state law passed earlier this year allows Danville and the other communities selected to receive a casino in the 2019 expanded gaming law a second chance to apply for a casino.

Best Foot Forward

After the meeting, Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. told the IGB’s decision allows the city and Haven to come back to the board with a stronger application.

Williams said Haven’s makeup is different now. Wilmorite Management Group now serves as the primary partner within Haven. Kathryn Solomon and Illinois attorney Scott Sypolt also remain as part of the group.

Former state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) remains involved in an advisory role, the mayor said.

Haven has been beset by changes in its team since Danville selected the company last year. The churn affected its ability to submit a thorough application the first time, as a lawyer for the company claimed to the IGB six months ago.

Wilmorite, a Rochester, NY-based development company, has experience in the gaming industry, having developed the del Lago Casino in Tyre, which is located between Rochester and Syracuse. The company sold its interest in the upstate New York casino to its partner, Peninsula Pacific, last year.

Wilmorite was not mentioned at Thursday’s IGB meeting.

Williams said the City Council is expected to consider and approve the new application at its Aug. 18 meeting.

Messages to Haven Gaming went unreturned Thursday.

Second Shot Coming, But How Quickly?

While Danville appears to be all-in on Haven, it’s not necessarily a guarantee that the IGB will give Haven a chance to submit the new application in the near future.

Fruchter told board members that when an applicant withdraws its license application, it must wait a year before resubmitting unless the board approves. The company would need to “seek leave” from the board before it could reapply.

“That question, should it arise, is not before the board today,” Fruchter said.

The question of timing will be a crucial one for Danville and the state. Less than an hour south of the central Illinois town lies Terre Haute, Ind., where there are plans for a Hard Rock casino that will serve as Danville’s competition in the region. The Indiana Gaming Commission has already approved the license for Spectacle Jack. Construction could start as soon as September, with the first bets being placed next year.