Casino Proposed for 24-Acre Site on I-80 in South Suburbs
By Mike Nolan - DAILY SOUTHTOWN | OCT 03, 2019 | 6:25 AM
Officials of a company that operates casinos on behalf of a Native American tribe in Alabama said Wednesday they will seek a license to open a casino in East Hazel Crest and Homewood
Wind Creek Hospitality officials said the initial phase of the project, estimated to cost $275 million, would include a 64,000-square-foot casino, entertainment venue for live music, three restaurants and two bars.
The facility would be built on a 24-acre site southwest of the interchange of Interstate 80 and Halsted Steet. More than half the site is in East Hazel Crest, and that suburb and Homewood, which has the rest of the property, would share in a portion of casino revenue, as would dozens of other area communities.
Wind Creek is a subsidiary of PCI Gaming Authority Inc., which manages 10 casinos and other gambling properties on behalf of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Expansion of gambling in Illinois is opening the door to the possibility of several south suburbs seeking a license, and communities including Calumet City, Country Club Hills, Crestwood and Matteson have expressed interest in pursuing a casino. Separately, plans are progressing for a combination harness racing track and casino in Tinley Park.
Village officials in Homewood and East Hazel Crest are scheduled to vote next week on agreements supporting their casino project.
Homewood will hold a public hearing on the matter at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Irwin Community Center, followed by its regular Village Board meeting, also being held at the center, where a vote on the resolution will be taken, Mayor Rich Hofeld said. The meeting is being moved from village hall to accommodate an expected crowd, he said.
East Hazel Crest is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting Oct. 9.
Brent Pinkston, Wind Creek’s chief operating officer, said his company has been working with Homewood and East Hazel Crest for several years, since the possibility of a south suburban casino was first discussed by legislators.
The site envisioned for the casino had previously been home to two hotels, since demolished, and Wind Creek has an option to purchase the property, Pinkston said.
“We think the site is a great location,” he said. “That location can drive the best tax revenue which will benefit all south suburbs.”
Pinkston said the property, if a casino were to be approved by state regulators, would be in a good position to recapture gambling dollars now flowing from the south suburbs to casinos in northwest Indiana.
The Illinois Gaming Board has an Oct. 28 deadline for casino applications and, under the gambling expansion law, has up to a year to review applications.
For a south suburban casino, the law permits a license issued for a development in one of six townships — Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Rich, Thornton or Worth. The law provides for the host community and 42 other south suburbs to share in 5% of revenue generated by the casino.
In this instance, with two host communities, they would keep 2% of monthly adjusted gross receipts, while another 3% would be shared among 41 other south suburbs. The host communities also would get $1 of the $3 admission tax for each person entering the casino.
Taxes are levied on a casino’s adjusted gross receipts, or revenue minus winnings paid to bettors.
Hofeld said that 55% of the casino site is in East Hazel Crest and 45% is in Homewood, and that is how the two communities’ shares of tax revenue would be divided, according to a longstanding agreement drafted in the event of their shared site winning approval for a casino.
The other 3% of adjusted gross revenue would be shared with Beecher, Blue Island, Burnham, Calumet City, Calumet Park, Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills, Crestwood, Crete, Dixmoor, Dolton, Flossmoor, Ford Heights, Glenwood, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Lansing, Lynwood, Markham, Matteson, Midlothian, Monee, Oak Forest, Olympia Fields, Orland Hills, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Park Forest, Phoenix, Posen, Richton Park, Riverdale, Robbins, Sauk Village, South Chicago Heights, South Holland, Steger, Thornton, Tinley Park, University Park, and Worth, according to the state.
The revenue sharing formula would be the same for a racino.
Hofeld said it is estimated that, in the first year of operation, the casino could generate revenue of $155 million.
Wind Creek officials said the casino would have more than 1,300 slot machines and nearly 60 table games. A second phase, planned to open in the fourth year of operation, includes a 251-room hotel with indoor pool and spa, according to the company. Company officials say the casino itself is expected to create the equivalent of 800 full-time jobs.
Pinkston said the company anticipates that it would take a year to build the casino. While the gambling law allows new casino license holders to operate for up to two years at a temporary site while a permanent building is being constructed, he said Wind Creek has no plans to do so.
Wind Creek manages gambling properties in Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and the Caribbean, in Aruba and Curacao, on behalf of the Poarch tribe.
It recently closed on a $1.3 billion acquisition of the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., with plans to pour $90 million into the property to build a hotel and expand the resort’s meeting space.
Hofeld called Wind Creek “a Class A operator” that is “very involved in their communities.” The company notes that, annually, it sets aside more than $1 million to benefit charitable organizations in communities where it operates.