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Finalists for Waukegan casino license make their pitch to Illinois Gaming Board

Lake County News Sun

Thursday, October 14, 2021  |  Article  |  Steve Sadin

Gambling, Gaming

Promising new jobs and a tax revenue boon, representatives of two casino companies competing for a license to operate in Waukegan made their penultimate pitches Wednesday morning.

 

Full House Resorts Inc. and North Point Casino, the two remaining contenders, touted their proposals to the Illinois Gaming Board Wednesday during a virtual meeting. After the presentations, board President Charles Schmadeke said members will take the proposals under advisement.

 

He did not indicate when a decision will be made.

 

Before the pick comes, both North Point and Full House will be submitting a final proposal based in part on questions members of the board asked during Wednesday’s presentations.

 

Initially, the board was considering three proposals but Midwest Gaming, operator of Rivers Casino in Des Plains, withdrew its bid Sept. 30.

 

Both Alex Stolyar, Full House’s senior vice president and chief development officer, and Bill Warner, CEO of Warner Gaming and a partner in North Point, said they will likely tweak their bids but were unwilling to share details because of the competitive nature of the process.

 

“We believe we have the best plan already but we are open to any conversation,” Stolyar said after the meeting.

 

Warner said he did not want to publicly disclose how North Point might change its proposal, but he and his partners may “step back and assess the situation.”

 

During the presentations, both potential operators said there will be an ample number of slot machines, table games and a sports book at their proposed casinos.

 

North Point’s proposal indicated the project will provide 1,000 construction jobs and 1,180 permanent positions. Full House estimated it will employ 2,000 individuals when open.

 

North Point plans an approximate $450 million investment in its Waukegan operation with an 81,500-square-foot casino that will reach the state maximum of 2,000 gaming positions, according to presentation materials.

 

There will also be an outdoor amphitheater with seating for between 5,000 and 7,000 people as well as a multipurpose venue that can serve as a ballroom, convention center or accommodate other events.

 

Warner said the amenities are designed to complement what is already in Waukegan rather than compete with it. Events better suited for the Genesee Theatre will not be booked, he said.

 

Dan Lee, president and CEO of Full House, said during the meeting that when complete, his resort will have a mansion with 20 luxury suites to accommodate high rollers as well as facilities for the average gambler.

 

Once a high ranking executive with the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Lee said there will be more than a few fountains in the lobby and other places to spark interest and bring people inside.

 

“It’s right by Fountain Square and we thought all the fountains would be cool as an added attraction,” Stolyar said.

When built, the casino will occupy approximately 28 acres of city-owned land adjacent to the Fountain Square Shopping Center. Though that may be at least two years away, both Full House and North Point have plans to open a temporary facility during construction within six months.

 

Lee said during his presentation that a temporary building would be constructed close to the permanent building. Warner said a lease will be signed for a nearby banquet facility for the short-term casino. It too can be opened in six months.

 

Marcus Fruchter, the Illinois Gaming Board’s administrator, mentioned during the proceedings that since Waukegan recommended Full House and North Point two years ago, the city had a change in administration.

 

Current Mayor Ann Taylor took office in May. She was an alderman on the Waukegan City Council when the vote was taken.

 

“She voted against all three applicants,” Fruchter said. “Have you maintained your relationship with the city?”

 

Both Lee and Michael Bond, a former state senator from Grayslake who is part of the North Point group, said they have not had contact with Taylor.

 

In a statement, Taylor said she is awaiting the board’s decision before taking any action.

 

“We are looking forward to the gaming board making a decision on the Waukegan casino license winner and once they do the city will actively engage with that party,” Taylor said in the statement.

 

Along with the potentially improved proposals, another layer of uncertainty is a lawsuit in which a another party is trying to join the bidding process.

 

When the city of Waukegan approved three applicants for consideration by the board two years ago, it decided not to endorse a proposal by Waukegan Potawatomi Casino LLC. The Potawatomi group sued the city in late 2019 seeking inclusion in the process. The legal proceedings are ongoing.