3 communities in running for state casino license

CHICAGO The competitors stood confident but nervous Friday while they engaged in friendly chit chat. They represented seven communities in the running for the state's 10th casino license, and there is a lot at stake.

"Employment is a real issue in the southern suburbs," said Gaming Board Member Eugene Winkler.

Two board members said that a strong case could be made for putting the 10th license in one of the three bidding south suburbs where the argument for economic need is strong. However, that ultimately was not the choice the board would make. They voted, and the three finalists are all north: Waukegan, Rosemont, and Des Plaines. From those three, the winner will be picked.

"In the last analysis, my vote was for the three that would bring the most revenue to the state of Illinois," said Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe.

The state's 10th license was supposed to go to Rosemont but was pulled in part because of allegations of organized crime connections. With the license in court fights for the better part of a decade, the state has lost, by some estimates, $1 billion in revenue.

Rosemont remains in the running. It and the other two finalists have made differing initial bids, but they'll all be sweetened. Waukegan argues that it's the most economically deserving of the three.

"The mayor and the council have passed a resolution to share with other communities. So, it's not going to wealthy communities. It's going to communities in need," said Ed Duffy of Waukegan Gaming.

That was the argument the south suburban bidders made, but for them, Friday's vote was a bitter disappointment.

"We were very surprised to here one of the board members support the South Side bid and then not get any votes," said Harvey Site Supporter Nick Wilke.

"Jobs relate to money. Economic growth relates to money. It's not the dollar upfront, and unfortunately, the South Side struck out," Calumet City Supporter Burt Odelson said.

The casino bidders from Rosemont, Des Plaines and Waukegan will each make public presentations the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Then next month, on a date to be determined, there will be a public hearing. In private, the three bidders will negotiate with the gaming board, determining ultimately how much money they'll put up, along with terms of payment. Then, the board will choose the winner; the plan is sometime before the end of the year.

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