Work begins on Des Plaines casino

April 16, 2010 2:56:45 PM PDT
After 10 years of delays and false starts, ground was broken Friday on a casino in the northwest suburbs.The owners hold the state's 10th and last casino license, and they are building their facility in Des Plaines.

There are happy faces behind the shovels Friday because when the rest of the dirt is moved there, the stretch of land between the Tri-state and River Road - in roughly 16-months - will become the state's 10th casino.

"We truly will become a destination city," said Marty Moylan, Des Plaines mayor.

"This is gonna be the most successful and exciting casino in the state of Illinois," said Neil Bluhm of Midwest Gaming.

Friday's groundbreaking is the symbolic end to more than a decade of litigation that froze the 10th license, and the money it would have generated for the state.

But now, there's new money coming in. A big check is part of it.

"How often do you see a check for close to $50 million written out to the state of Illinois. And that check is not going to anything new. It's going to existing obligations to pay bills and keep people employed in Illinois," said Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski who represents Park Ridge.

By the time the casino opens in late summer of next year, operator Midwest Gaming will have paid the state $125 million, and then $10 million in each of the next 30 years. Small wonder people in the area are happy.

But on another gaming front, the plan to put video poker in bars statewide is gathering more clouds. From the outset, the question has been, what will Chicago do?

"We have a prohibition against video poker, and there's no movement to do away with that," said Mayor Richard Daley.

Daley didn't close the door Friday on video poker in Chicago, but his remark is one of the strongest yet that the idea has little political traction in Chicago.

And if Chicago -- which would have most of the state's video poker machines -- doesn't want in, what happens?

"There's a lot of potential gaming locations in Chicago, and if they didn't opt in, it'd be a reduction in revenue, but you still think it'd go forward in other areas of the state? I think so," said Charlie Gardner, an Ill. Gaming Board member.

The state gaming board is still moving ahead with its plans to increase staff and put out proposals for a master computer that would oversee video poker operations and pay-outs. If it happens, it's a year away, and that "if" seems to be taking on a larger dimension.

The Des Plaines casino, meanwhile, is moving forward, and has already put money in the state's bank.


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