Gaming Firms Place Their Bets in Bidding for Final Illinois Casino License

Representing proposed casinos in various parts of the Chicago region, executives from the three companies bidding for Illinois’ last available casino license presented their plans to the Illinois Gaming Board yesterday. The license has been in limbo since a 2004 casino proposal for Rosement, near O’Hare International Airport, became fatally tangled in legal and administrative disputes. All bids are for the license itself and do not reflect the costs of actually building and opening a casino. * Rosemont: Trilliant Gaming Illinois L.L.C. has offered a $435 million upfront license fee, in conjunction with an arrangement under which the Village of Rosemont would relinquish all of its share of admission fees and gaming taxes. About two thirds of those fees and taxes, estimated to total $24 million a year, would be redistributed to 70 other municipalities in Cook County. One of the joint venture partners in Trilliant is Alex Yemenidjian, former president & COO of MGM Mirage Inc. and former chairman & CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. * Waukegan: Waukegan Gaming’s proposal includes a $225 million bid for the license and ties the casino into the Waukegan Vision, a 20-year plan, adopted by Waukegan’s city council in 2003, that would redevelop 1,400 acres of the city’s lakefront and downtown. Prepared by famed architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the plan calls for 3,700 residential units in four new lakefront neighborhoods and 1 million square feet of new commercial, retail and public open space. Waukegan Gaming contends that given the city’s location close to the Wisconsin border, a casino there would be less likely than the other two proposed properties to siphon off business from existing casinos. The Waukegan proposal’s revenue-sharing would stay in Lake County, with 20 percent of the casino’s gaming revenues going to eight neighboring municipalities that, like Waukegan itself, have suffered economic hardship: Park City, North Chicago, Round Lake, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Heights, Beach Park and Zion. * Des Plaines: Midwest Gaming & Entertainment, which bid $100 million, is backed by billionaire developer Neil Bluhm, the “B” in JMB Realty Corp., Midwest Gamings’s bid also includes an additional $100 million payable over time at approximately $10 million a year, though the particulars depend on whether the State of Illinois raises the casino tax rate and/or authorizes more casinos. Well aware that their bid was by far the lowest, Midwest Gaming executives characterized their proposal as the least risky. There could be substantial truth to that assertion, according to an article in the ChicagoTribune on Monday, the day before the gaming board’s hearing. The article noted that Harrah’s Entertainment recently dropped plans for a casino in Kansas, citing financial concerns, and that because of an inability to secure financing, Nevada-based Eldorado Resorts backed out of a bid to buy a casino in Evansville, Ind. The article also pointed out that between the economy and a new indoor smoking ban, casino revenues in Illinois are already down.