The Gaming Board is still looking for an investment banker to evaluate three applicants
he process to award a license to develop a casino in Waukegan next year has been delayed a few months as the Illinois Gaming Board is still looking for an investment banker to help it evaluate the three applicants.
Before the board can award a license for the casino, which will be part of an entertainment center on 28 acres of city-owned land adjacent to the Fountain Square shopping center, it must retain the services of an investment banker to assist with the competitive bidding process, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Though the board issued a formal request for proposal inviting bids from investment bankers to assist the evaluation, administrator Marcus Frutcher said at a Jan. 27 meeting no bids were received by the Jan. 8 deadline causing further delay to granting the Waukegan license.
"Unfortunately we did not receive any bids, and therefore could not retain an investment banking firm to assist with this process," Frutcher said at the meeting. "The procurement code imposes a number of steps we must complete, and we are working through them in an expeditious manner."
When the board issued its RFP in December, it sought the help of investment banks and other experts to review matters including the casino project’s economic impact, potential job creation and overall financial projections.
Based on 2019 legislation authorizing additional casinos in Illinois, Waukegan, Danville, Rockford, the south Cook County suburbs and far Downstate Williamson County were slated to get one.
Three bidders were approved by the Waukegan City Council in 2019, leaving the board to pick the licensee. A winner was expected in October. Frutcher said at the board’s Oct. 29 meeting a decision was delayed because of both the coronavirus pandemic and the need for an investment banker.
Joe Miller, a press spokesperson for the gaming board, said there are multiple options open to the board to select an investment banker, including the posting of another RFP. He did not know when that might happen because the board does not speculate about timelines.
Frutcher said in October once an investment banker is chosen, the board would likely announce the licensee within six months. Miller said he does not know why no bids were received.
Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham said he was disappointed by another delay, but continues to look forward to the eventual development as an economic boon for the city and other communities in northeastern Illinois. He understands the need for review by financial experts.
“They want to make sure the applicants’ numbers are in the ballpark,” Cunningham said. “I’m disappointed, but optimistic because it’s going to happen. The time frame is going to be longer.”Cunningham said with the latest delay, he does not anticipate construction starting until the second or third quarter of next year.
The three applicants for the Waukegan Casino are Full House Resorts, North Point Casino and Midwest Gaming. While a representative of Midwest Gaming said the company had no comment on the delay, the other potential licensees remain excited about the project. Both North Point and Full House have secured the necessary financing for the project, representatives said.
Bill Warner, the CEO of Warner Gaming, which is part of the North Point group, said in an email he respects the gaming board’s diligence but remains excited about building and operating a casino in Waukegan.
“North Point Casino is fully capitalized, and is ready to build a locally-focused world-class entertainment destination in Waukegan right now.” he wrote. “We believe Waukegan is worth waiting for, and our commitment to the community will not waiver with time.”
Alex J. Stolyar, the senior vice president and chief development officer of Full House Resorts, Inc., said his company also has its financing in place, and is ready to proceed should Full House receive the license.
“We’re excited about getting started,” he said. “We’re fully capitalized, and ready to proceed as expeditiously as possible.”
Stolyar said once the license is issued, Full House plans to open a temporary casino on the site within six months. He anticipates construction will start on the permanent operation quickly, and be ready in around two years.