Interim Waukegan casino could open as soon as October
Though the finished casino isn't set to be ready until 2025, Waukegan could become a destination for gamblers as soon as October.
Aptly named "The Temporary by American Place," an interim casino about the size of three football fields is scheduled to open later this year on the same site bordering the Fountain Square shopping center where Full House Resorts will build its permanent American Place casino.
Full House plans to fill the temporary structure with 1,000 slot machines, 50 table games, three restaurants and a bar.
Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor said while the interim casino, set to open sometime in October to December, technically will be a tent, it will be strong enough to handle the weather for its expected life, which will end as soon as the permanent facility is finished.
Though the site doesn't look like much now -- just a fresh concrete pad south of the Walmart by Belvidere Road -- the structure of the tent will begin coming together in the next few weeks, Taylor said. Full House has hosted several job fairs to fill positions at The Temporary, which Taylor believes will spur development in the area.
"With the casino coming in, we've been starting to see a lot of buzz with Waukegan," she said. "I think they see Waukegan is on the cusp and they want to be part of it."
Among the advantages Taylor cited were Metra access to downtown Chicago and the city's location halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee.
The casino's location is among the main reasons Full House thinks American Place will be a hit. During a recent presentation to investors, officials said that when completed, American Place will be the closest casino for 1.2 million people in Lake County and southern Wisconsin. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Elgin's Grand Victoria Casino and Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee are the only casinos within an hour's drive of Waukegan without traffic, developers estimate.
But will American Place still be too close for comfort for other area casinos? Tom Thanas, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, doesn't think so.
"Brick-and-mortar casinos have been operating in the state for 30 years now," said Thanas, whose association represents the majority of the state's casinos. "The casinos have always adjusted and reacted and welcomed the competition."
The permanent casino is set to open in 2025 with 1,640 slot machines, 100 table games, a 1,500-seat entertainment venue, six bars and restaurants, and a sportsbook. American Place also will offer 20 luxury villas with butlers, room service and a spa, at what will be called The Mansion at American Place. And if high-rollers don't feel like getting to American Place by vehicle, they could make use of the planned rooftop helipad instead.
As soon as The Temporary is up and running, Full House will have three years to complete the permanent casino. Taylor expressed optimism that the developers won't need all of that time.
"I know they'd like to get it done in two," she said. "But when talking about construction in Illinois, it's all up in the air about what you can get done because of the weather."
For more information about the casino and to see a virtual walk-through of the plan, visit americanplace.com.