After Senate Bill 690 was passed by Illinois lawmakers on Sunday, Waukegan is now eligible to receive 1 of the 6 new casinos planned for the state’s widespread gambling expansion.
The land where the new facility will be situated has laid vacant for more than 15 years, and has been purposefully kept off the market so one day the site could accommodate a potential casino. At the time, the city paid close to $7 million for the site, while the agreement for improving the surrounding infrastructure and buying the land, is said to have left them in debts of $12.8 million.
With the final bill in the process of being signed off, construction is said to be high up on Gov J.B. Pritzker’s priority list; plans are in place to kit the Lake County casino out with more than 2,000 electronic slot machines and table games, and open up a variety new career opportunities.
When speaking to the city’s mayor, Sam Cunningham – he said how it is not yet known how large the casino will be, or how much revenue it is likely to generate in the first year.
“Once we get the final bill, we can give you a better answer,” Mr. Cunningham said Monday afternoon. “This is an exciting time.”
The casino’s location sits just away from Interstate 94 and southwest to the intersection of Route 41, Route 43 and Route 120, at the site of the former Lakehurst Mall.
Cunningham is also hopeful the funds will assist in moving projects forward, such as the redevelopment of the Lake Michigan lakefront. “Now, we have defined means. Our goal is to become the premier destination on the North Shore,” Cunningham said.
“We have met the original criteria of gambling – disadvantaged communities that could use an economic boost. We meet that three times over,” he added.
Hunting for a Casino since the 90s
Waukegan is the largest city in Illinois, and has been vying for a casino since the first riverboat casinos were permitted in the state back in 1999. In 2008, they were extremely close to winning a casino license, but lost it to competitors in Des Plaines.
“Waukegan is ready to take its vibrant history shaped by Lake Michigan lakefront, our rich arts and music community, our population of 100,000 and our location as the county seat of Lake County, Illinois,” Cunningham testified back in May.
“We’ve worked hard at it. Now, we’ve got to capitalize on that,” said the mayor.
Other cities permitted to receive a new casino under the new state law are: Rockford, Williamson County, Chicago, Danville and the South suburbs, with new policies and licenses already being prepared and ready to auction off to potential gambling operators.
Bill 690 also permits stadiums and larger venues to offer sports betting for a license fee of $20 million, something which states have been able to do since the U.S. Supreme Court found a loophole in the legislation which allowed for wagering on professional and collegial sports.
“After the Supreme Court legalized sports betting, I promised the people of Illinois that sports wagering would be a key element of my legislative agenda, so that we are competitive with our neighboring states and can create more revenue for communities around Illinois,” Gov. Pritzker said.
He also cited how the new bill has turned out to be a “win for the whole state.”
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