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Des Plaines hits jackpot with casino license

Rosemont's mob rep to blame for loss?
December 22, 2008 9:42:10 PM PST
After winning the state's 10th casino license, many Des Plaines residents are feeling lucky.Downtown Des Plaines was filled with cold commuters and nearly empty businesses on Monday night.

But after winning the state's 10th casino license, many in the town believe that Des Plaines has finally hit the jackpot.

"I think it's great. Create a lot of revenue for businesses here, for the town itself," restaurant owner Oscar Torres said on Monday night.

Des Plaines Mayor Tony Arredia agreed, adding: "I just left a restaurant where a couple of people said, 'Mayor, does that mean we don't have to pay any higher property taxes?' I said, 'it could mean that, it could mean that.'"

The city of Des Plaines expects to collect $9 million a year from the new casino.

The 1200 position casino will go up, along with a hotel and restaurant, at what is now an empty office complex, just a couple of blocks away from Rosemont on River Road just north of Devon Avenue.

The Illinois Gaming Board selected Des Plaines on Monday even though its bid was the lowest of the final three.

Waukegan's bidder offered $225 million.

Rosemont's bidder offered $435 million upfront.

But it was Rosemont's reputation - and that of its late mayor, Donald Stephens - that did it in, even though Stevens went to his grave denying any links to organized crime.

"Rosemont is tainted by reputation," said Illinois Gaming Board Member Charles Gardner.

The casino in Elgin is just 25 miles away from the Des Plaines location. And on Monday night, Elgin's Mayor, Ed Schock, called the Gaming Board's decision "bizarre." He says it will cannibalize revenue from riverboats in Elgin and Aurora.

But ask the people of Des Plaines, and most of them are feeling a little lucky.

Ill. Gaming Board awards casino to Des Plaines

The Illinois Gaming Board voted 3-to-1 to award the northwest suburb the state's 10th casino license on Monday.

The license has been in legal limbo for years. Des Plaines, Rosemont and Waukegan were the three finalists. Rosemont's bid, which promised the state hundreds of millions dollars more than any of the others, was undone by its reputation. The village did not get a single vote.

Don Stephens has been dead for more than a year and a half but his presence loomed large Monday as the community he founded and ran lost its bid for a casino.

"They represented their arrogance, disdain, and contempt for the state gaming board that the late mayor displayed," said Charles Gardner, Illinois Gaming Board Member.

One gaming board member said he still believes the mob still influences events in Rosemont. Another said 'Rosemont was the best site for a new casino... too bad it's in Rosemont.' With that, the next town over, Des Plaines, won the bid.

"Des Plaines and Rosemont just being a few blocks away, the money flow is going to be the same," said Aaron Jaffe, Illinois Gaming Board Chairman.

Pending state approval, construction will begin in about a year and the casino will be built in stages.

"As the economy improves, we'll build the rest of the project, which will be subsequent phases consisting of one or two hotels, entertainment, restaurants, retail and so on," said Neil Bluhm, Midwest Gaming.

The Gaming Board is supposed to consider "economic need," among other factors, when deciding where to allow a casino to be built. All board members agreed Waukegan fits that bill the best. But there were concerns about former investor William Cellini's recent indictment in the state corruption probe.

"It just seems like their only interest is greed: money. Money for the state? They forgot people," said Mayor Richard Hyde, Waukegan.

Des Plaines was the low bidder among the three communities. The state will get $122 million up front, $10 million every year, plus a share of revenue.

The village spokesperson for Rosemont did not return ABC7's calls for comment. Rosemont's leaders -- past and present ? have long denied ties to organized crime.

Statement from AG Lisa Madigan regarding Illinois Gaming Board's Decision to Award 10th Casino License to Des Plaines

Today, the Illinois Gaming Board voted to award the State of Illinois' 10th casino license to Midwest Gaming LLC to locate a casino in Des Plaines.

As I have repeatedly stated, I expect the Board to provide a transparent, public explanation of the decision-making process, so that it is clear how they arrived at their selection. To that end, each Board member publicly explained his vote today, and the Board also stated that it will publicly provide more detailed, written explanations at its next meeting scheduled for January 12, 2009. The Board's Staff Analysis and Recommendation is also available to the public.

I have always believed that the Board's decision must put integrity first and foremost. As the process moves forward, including the important step of completing a full Board background check on all parties associated with the application, it is critical that the Board continue to make information publicly available. Transparency will be a key factor as we move closer to restoring credibility to the 10th license.


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