Las Vegas company is state gaming board's pick to run Waukegan casino
State regulators on Wednesday selected a Las Vegas-based company as their choice to run the long-planned Waukegan casino over a group led by former Lake County state lawmaker Michael Bond.
The Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously for Full House Resorts and granted it preliminarily licensure to operate the casino it plans to name American Place.
Gaming board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said it is not guaranteed that Full House Resorts would ultimately receive the license, as further review is required before final approval.
"Preliminary suitability is not the final act in this play and does not render licensure a mere formality," Fruchter said during the board's virtual meeting Wednesday morning.
Another bidder's lawsuit against the city also is still pending.
But the decision likely dashes the hopes of North Point Casino led by Bond, the former state senator from Grayslake who now runs a video gambling business.
Daniel R. Lee, president and chief executive officer of Full House Resorts, praised the gaming board's decision and said the company would begin working immediately to create a temporary casino in Waukegan by mid-2022.
"Through our planned temporary facility -- aptly named The Temporary by American Place -- we will be able to quickly create jobs and generate tax revenues while the permanent American Place facility is being built," Lee said in a written statement Wednesday.
The permanent casino will be built on the site of the shuttered Fountain Square shopping center, at Lakehurst Road and Northpoint Boulevard.
The company said Wednesday that American Place eventually will include a 150-room, four-star hotel as well as 20 luxury villas with butler service. Other features touted include a 1,500-seat entertainment venue, a gourmet restaurant "that will rival the finest restaurants in Chicago," and a sportsbook.
According to the company's 402-page proposal presented in 2019, building the 75,000-square-foot casino would cost between $275 million and $325 million. The casino is expected to generate more than $13 million annually for Waukegan, company officials said.
The gaming board had been poised to issue the Waukegan license last month but delayed its decision "out of respect for the judicial process" in a federal lawsuit filed by a foiled bidder, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The Forest County Potawatomi Community sued Waukegan in 2019 after the city voted to eliminate its proposal; the Potawatomi claimed the process was "rigged" by previous city officials to favor the bid from the firm led by Bond.
The Potawatomi filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the gaming board from moving ahead with its selection until their lawsuit is resolved. Cook County Judge Cecilia Horan turned down that request Tuesday, saying the tribe didn't have legal standing to hold up the selection.
A Potawatomi spokesman said the tribe will continue pursuing "all available legal paths -- including continuing to participate in the ongoing federal mediation with the city -- to find the best solution for the citizens of Waukegan."
A third group put forward by Waukegan, a joint venture between billionaire casino mogul Neil Bluhm and Churchill Downs Inc., withdrew from consideration earlier this fall after it announced it would sell Arlington International Racecourse to the Chicago Bears.
The Illinois Gaming Board also on Wednesday selected a developer for a casino straddling the border of South suburban Homewood and East Hazel Crest, just off Interstate 80 near 175th and Halsted streets, the Sun-Times reports.
• The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report. Follow their stories at chicago.suntimes.com.