Rosemont, Illinois Gets $2.8 Million from Backers of Failed Emerald Casino

Posted on: December 5, 2020, 11:24h. 

Last updated on: December 6, 2020, 11:45h.

The village of Rosemont in Chicagoland is getting a $2.8 million settlement to resolve an 18-year-old legal battle with the backers of the ill-fated Emerald Casino.

Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens is philosophical about the village’s payout, which is far less than had been hoped. (Image: Chicago Sun-Times)

As the community that was to host the capsized project, village officials were hoping for a windfall of at least $45 million to compensate for its failure.

The Emerald Casino was once a very big deal for Illinois and for Rosemont in particular. In 1999, the Illinois legislature rewrote state gambling laws to allow local businessman Donald Flynn to relocate his East Dubuque, Illinois gaming license to Rosemont.

A stone’s throw from Chicago’s O’Hare airport, the new casino was expected to generate $400 million per year. Rosemont would receive an estimated $6.4 million annually in taxes for the first ten years, plus $1.5 million a year in rent.

Mob Ties?

The deal seemed wired shut, and the casino broke ground in October 1999. Meanwhile, Rosemont officials kept their end of the bargain, building a seven-level, 8,500-space parking garage for the casino.

But in 2001, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) suddenly and unexpectedly revoked the Emerald’s license.

The board found the company had repeatedly lied about its ownership structure, which had altered significantly since it was granted initial approval to move to Rosemont.

The regulator said it also suspected the company had associated with organized crime. This was never categorically proven by the IGB. But several individuals with reputed links to the Chicago Outfit were found to have concealed their interests in the project.

The license was eventually awarded to Neil Bluhm’s Midwest Gaming, which built the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, just a few miles from Rosemont.

$10 Million Legal Bill

In 2014, a federal judge ruled that six former Emerald officers owed various creditors $272 million due to individual compliance failures that had led to the loss of the Rosemont gambling license.

Rosemont itself was towards the end of the line for a payout. The village has spent $10 million in legal fees over the past two decades chasing the money it believed it was owed. But incumbent mayor Brad Stephens is philosophical about the result.

The parking garage the village built for the casino currently serves the Parkway Bank Park village entertainment district, which was built on the site earmarked for the casino. Opened in 2012, the entertainment district might not be bringing in the numbers the casino developers had promised, but it has been a success.

“We were in a negative position cash-wise,” Stephens admitted. “But we have a parking garage as an asset. We were never going to recoup the legal fees, but it’s better than getting nothing.

“We were handed lemons and made some pretty tasty lemonade,” he said.