CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois Gaming Board dealt a winning hand Wednesday to a pair of proposals for casinos in Waukegan, and one that would border Homewood and East Hazel Crest in the south suburbs. The decision came after months of anticipation and brings with it economic hope for those communities.
The sun was shining on Homewood and neighboring East Hazel Crest after a nine-year effort of the two longtime village leaders to bring a casino to their communities finally in the cards.
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"Very happy. I had been cautiously optimistic and it's just a joyful feeling," said Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld.
The Wind Creek Casino would be a 70,000-square-foot facility with slots and table games, entertainment, dining and a 252-room hotel. The developer is estimating it will bring 800 jobs to the region.
"I want to thank them for saving a village," East Hazel Crest Village President Thomas Brown said. "They saved our little village of 1,300 people. This is our last piece of property that we could develop."
The site beat out one proposed by the village of Matteson, where officials planned a watch party only to have their hopes dashed.
The gaming board did not give a reason, but the East Hazel Crest village president believes it all came down their location right off I-80, which would enable them to draw gamblers from Indiana as well.
"If you look at the statistics, there's almost 218,000 vehicles that go by our site every day, compared to Matteson, where they have 50,000 vehicles every day," Brown said.
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In Waukegan the gaming board awarded the winning bid to American Place Casino, a luxury facility that will include a helipad and 20-room mansion for high-roller guests. It would bring 1,900 jobs, and would be built on the Fountain Square property owned by the city.
"Having a heliport and all of that, it basically opens up tourism for Waukegan," Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor said. "I mean, you will get people coming from not all over the country, but from all over the world. And that is an engine that drives economic development."
South suburban officials are hoping the break ground in March, with the Wind Creek Casino expected to open in 2023.
In Waukegan, the mayor said a temporary casino could be up and running there in six months with the full casino operational in two years.