Currently, there are only two proposals for the long-anticipated Waukegan casino. The process of bringing a casino venue to the city has been a tough one, and the situation seems to be getting even more complicated before the ground is broken.
Late in September 2021, it became clear that Churchill Downs-Rush Street Gaming group decided to withdraw its bid for the establishment of a casino venue in Waukegan right after the company entered into an agreement with the Chicago Bears. The move left only two competitors for the project – Lakeside Casino LLC and Full House Resorts.
Representatives of the two companies are supposed to table their proposals to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) by the end of the week, with the hearing set to be the final opportunity for the operators to get some support for their projects. After this, the state agency is set to take into consideration both Waukegan casino offers and could announce its decision by the end of 2021.
Potawatomi Tribe’s Lawsuit Undermines the Waukegan Casino Selection Process
So far, the process of selecting a gambling operator for the Waukegan casino license has been delayed for different reasons. First, there was the novel coronavirus outbreak, and then the Illinois Gaming Board decided to retain an investment banking firm in order to decide which one of the applicants will be granted the operating license.
Apart from the aforementioned setbacks during the selection process, Waukegan officials and state gambling regulatory bodies seem to be ignoring the pending federal lawsuit that the Forest County Potawatomi Community, which currently operates a casino in Milwaukee filed against the city two years ago.
The legal action remains in the US District Court of Chicago and, at least for the time being, it does not appear to be brought to an end. The legal representatives of both parties have made some discoveries and depositions.
The Potawatomi lawsuit circles around the Waukegan casino’s selection process during which the tribe was dismissed. According to the legal action filed by the Native American tribe, Waukegan officials used incorrect information compiled by its consultant on the casino project to reject the bid. The legal representatives of the city, however, claim that the lawsuit is invalid and the consultant based their data on the information that was available during the early evaluation process.
Although the Indian tribe has taken the city to court, it remains interested in partnering with Waukegan to establish a casino in the city. According to the Potawatomi, it is not too late for the city to send the tribe’s proposal to the Illinois Gaming Board and let the experts make a decision.
Waukegan Casino Will Have a Positive Impact on the City, Study Shows
The aspirations for a casino establishment have been circling around Waukegan since the early 1990s, at the time when riverboat gambling first set foot in the state. Over the years, gambling developers have shared several plans seeking to establish casino venues in the city.
Some proposals have included clearing the bed of the Waukegan River at the lakefront of Lake Michigan in order to be able to install a gaming boat. Other plans have included the Fountain Square site as a potential location for a brick-and-mortar gambling establishment.
During the period, a number of economic studies have estimated that a casino venue will have a positive impact on the city, as it will boost city revenues and will generate more jobs. According to the most recent study of 2021, 10 jobs are set to be created for every $1 million spent at the planned Waukegan casino. This would mean about 2,800 jobs created by the time the gambling venue starts operation, with more than 50% of the casino workers originating from the city. Analysts have also estimated that the overall revenue generated by the establishment would be approximately $24 million.
The ongoing lawsuit, however, is still pending over the city’s decision to name the company that would get the Waukegan casino license. Even more, if the tribe’s claims are successful in court, the legal action’s outcome could set back the entire selection process.
There is a possibility that a federal judge determines the selection process of Waukegan as invalid. Such an outcome would overturn the entire selection process and would force the city to start all over again. Of course, the Potawatomi tribe’s claims could be found groundless, with the federal judge tossing the entire lawsuit.