Long-sought casino in Waukegan opens to VIP fanfare and thousands of visitors
A long-awaited casino expected to provide an economic boost to Waukegan and the area opened this past weekend to VIP fanfare and a big crowd.
Thousands attended the grand opening Friday of The Temporary by American Place, the 75,000-square-foot initial offering operated by Full House Resorts Inc. Construction is pending on a permanent facility nearby.
"The American Place casino is the biggest development we've had in Waukegan in years, and it is incredible that we have finally reached this critical milestone of opening The Temporary," said Mayor Ann Taylor.
Near Interstate 94, The Temporary is south of Route 120 and west of Waukegan Road in what is known as Fountain Square shopping mall. It's open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Table games are open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
"This casino will serve as an economic engine for the greater Lake County region and beyond, bringing new jobs and visitors to our city and Fountain Square," Taylor added.
Jeff Babinski, vice president and general manager, said there were more than 14,000 visitors in the 2½ days since the public opening at 8 p.m. Friday. The company Thursday received a temporary operating permit from the Illinois Gaming Board.
Last summer, Taylor said the opening of The Temporary could happen between October and December.
"We have been working diligently with the state of Illinois to ensure that we could provide a first-class customer experience and did not want to open until we were fully ready," Babinski said Monday.
The Temporary features almost 1,000 slot machines, 28 table games, the L'Américain sit-down restaurant, a center bar and two Airstream trailers serving food and drinks.
In coming weeks, the casino is expected to expand to 50 table games and add two more full-service restaurants, Asia-Azteca and North Shore Steaks & Seafood, according to Babinski.
"The casino adds another asset to our collection of tourism attractions in the county," said Maureen Riedy, president of the Visit Lake County marketing and tourism bureau. "It's been a longtime coming and will provide an economic boost to the region."
Hotels nearby saw occupancy increases due to construction and hiring activity as The Temporary was being built, Riedy said. That's expected to continue while the permanent structure is erected.
Approved by state regulators in December 2021, the facility is the first casino to open in the Northern suburbs. It's advertised as combining "Midwestern charm with a splash of the vibrant energy of Vegas."
In a presentation to investors last year, officials said American Place will be the closest casino for 1.2 million people in Lake County and southern Wisconsin.
The permanent casino is in the design phase, with construction anticipated to begin later this year, Babinski said.
Plans call for 1,640 slot machines, 100 table games, a multitiered, 1,500-seat entertainment venue, a 20-room private villa for elite players with butlers and spa services available, and a helipad for high rollers, according to Full House.