The Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously on Wednesday, Dec. 8, to name Wind Creek Illinois as the winning applicant for the south suburban casino license. In a separate motion, the board also found the company to be preliminarily suitable to receive the license.
Wind Creek prevailed over one remaining finalist, South Suburban Development LLC, which had planned to open a casino at the site of the former Lincoln Square Mall in Matteson.
IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter explained that the approval of Wind Creek as the final applicant does not mean the company has received the license.
The board's action is "not guarantee of final licensure. This is not the final act in this play. It does not render licensure an inevitability," Fruchter said. "The licensure process will continue."
Fruchter reminded the board that its timeline for awarding the license was expected to conclude in January. The board's next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27.
Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris welcomed the board's decision.
“Wind Creek Illinois is honored to have been found preliminarily suitable for the south suburban casino license by the Illinois Gaming Board today," Dorris said. "Throughout this process, we have reiterated the belief that we offer the best location in and for the south suburban region – and will deliver on our commitments to job creation, community and economic investment, sustained operational excellence, and a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in all phases of construction and operation."
Dorris said the casino is expected to open in 2023, assuming the license is granted.
Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld said he was cautiously optimistic about the outcome prior to the meeting.
"What was most telling to me was the independent analysis of the different sites as to the revenue that would be generated," he said. "Three different analysts said this would be the preferred site."
Hofeld said the casino would benefit not only Homewood and East Hazel Crest but the south suburban region. He cited the expected influx of jobs as the primary benefit. Wind Creek expects to create about 800 jobs when the facility is complete, not counting as many as 600 construction jobs.
Hofeld also expects a boost to local businesses that will support casino and hotel operations.
Area communities will also receive a share of casino revenues. Homewood and East Hazel Crest will split 2% of the revenues, with Homewood getting 45% of that income because a larger portion of the property is in East Hazel Crest.
He also noted that the two villages have agreed to contribute their proceeds for the first two years to a create a fund that will provide health care and education benefits to south suburban residents. Wind Creek will also contribute to the fund.
Another 3% of casino revenues will be distributed among 43 other south suburban communities.
"I would like to thank the Illinois Gaming Board and their staff for this decision," Hofeld said. "I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of Calumet City, Lynwood and Matteson. They were formidible competition."