Could a new Rivers Casino be headed to Waukegan?

The owners of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights have proposed building a casino in Waukegan.

Rivers Casino Waukegan would offer 1,600 gambling seats and more than 1,200 permanent jobs, according to a news release announcing the plan.

The proposal is being floated by Churchill Downs and Rush Street Gaming, which jointly own Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Churchill Downs also owns and operates Arlington International Racecourse, casinos in eight states and the racetrack that hosts the Kentucky Derby.

In addition to the Des Plaines venue, Rivers operates casinos in New York and Pennsylvania.

"We're happy to be considered to develop and operate what we know will be a leading entertainment destination for the city of Waukegan, Lake County and the state of Illinois," Rush Street Gaming CEO Greg Carlin said in the announcement. "It would be an honor to bring the Rivers brand and experience to Waukegan."

The companies are eyeing the city-owned Fountain Square property near routes 120 and 43 for the venture. It long has been a favored spot for a possible casino.

In fact, gambling proponents proposed constructing a casino there more than a decade ago - but the license went to Des Plaines, and Rivers Casino subsequently was built on River Road, opening in 2011.

The companies' latest proposal was made possible by a state gambling expansion plan signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June. It calls for new casinos in Waukegan, Chicago, Rockford and three other locations in the state.

According to the proposal, Rivers Casino Waukegan would have a poker room - something lacking in the Des Plaines casino. It also would have a restaurant and other amenities.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen envisions "a world-class entertainment destination," the announcement states.

The Rivers Casino plan isn't the only proposal for a Waukegan casino.

Milwaukee's Potawatomi Hotel & Casino has submitted an application, too. So have Northbrook-based Tap Room Gaming and a Las Vegas-based casino operator called Warner Gaming, among other companies, according to ProPublica Illinois.

The Waukegan city council will choose finalists for the casino license. The Illinois Gaming Board has final say.

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The operators of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines want to build another Rivers in Waukegan. They're one of several companies seeking a state license to build a casino in the Lake County city. Daily Herald File Photo, 2010
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