Gaming board checks out site proposed for Waukegan casino

Illinois Gaming Board members dropped by Waukegan as part of a three-city tour Wednesday, where an investment and development team tried to demonstrate why it has the best site for a new casino.

Waukegan Gaming LLC is competing with six other companies seeking the state’s 10th casino license. Rosemont, Des Plaines, Calumet City and Stickney are among the towns where the companies want to place casinos.

As part of the bidding process, the state’s gaming board members visited the proposed casino sites in Waukegan, Des Plaines and Rosemont.

During the Waukegan visit, the gaming board was led to a fifth-floor hotel room at Fountain Square mall. That’s where Edward Duffy, who’s part of the Waukegan Gaming team, pointed to 31 acres down below – about 1 mile east of Route 120 and the Tri-State Tollway – as the ideal casino site because of its easy access.

Another plus, said Duffy, is that the road network leading to the Fountain Square property, which includes Route 41 just to the east, doesn’t go through residential neighborhoods. He added that all utilities are in place on the site.

„If the gaming board were to say today, ‚Proceed,‘ we could be open in a year,“ Duffy said.

Plans call for a 50,000-square-foot floating casino, 150-room hotel, restaurants and an attached parking garage.

Toronto-based Clairvest Group Inc. is part of Waukegan Gaming’s investment team. Clairvest’s co-CEO and managing director, Jeff Parr, told the state officials Waukegan’s site would have a significant edge with the 750-car garage and a potential for up to 4,000 parking spaces.

„In terms of access, I have not seen a better site in my whole career,“ said Parr, whose company has been involved with gambling ventures in Canada and Chile.

Duffy stressed to gaming board members that the state created casino licenses to help struggling cities such as Waukegan. He said more than 1,200 jobs would be created at the casino and that revenue would dramatically accelerate Waukegan’s planned USD 1.2 billion downtown and lakefront redevelopment.

Waukegan Gaming’s opening bid was USD 225 million, second to the USD 435 million submitted by Trilliant Gaming Illinois LLC, which wants to build in Rosemont. The gaming board will narrow the field to three finalists, then negotiate with the companies in an effort to drive up bids and incentives for the state.