On December 26th, 2008, Billionaire Chicago developer Neil Bluhm’s company has just won the casino license to construct in suburban Des Plaines. Building a fifty-thousand square foot casino facility in a suburb near the O’Hare International Airport is just the latest foray in the gaming industry. Bluhm said that they are very happy to be picked. Bluhm was not the highest casino bidder, but his Midwest Gaming company was chosen over two casino gaming finalist as the biggest bidder, but his Midwest Gaming was chosen over two casino finalists as the winner of Illinois’ unused tenth casino license has been mired for years in legal and administrative problems.
His organization received the blessing of the Illinois Gambling Board after ethical problems were raised about the bids from the other casino finalists, Waukegan Gaming and Trilliant Gaming. The gaming board said that some individuals associated with Waukegan Gaming has questionable dealings. Affecting Trilliant’s bid was its casino plan to construct a casino in Rosemont, which is smeared by alleged mob collections.
Midwest Gaming did not possess those problems. The gaming board staff also noted that they had not found any recent monetary contributions to the Des Plaines mayor from Midwest Gaming sources like they had found out to the mayor of Waukegan from sources connected to Waukegan gaming.
Des Plaines Mayor Tony Arredia said that he thinks that they have done an excellent job in making sure that they had a reliable developer. Although Midwest Gaming has been chosen to receive the license, the study of Bluhm, his organization and his casino proposal for Des Plaines is not yet over. An even more stringent study process will begin as the Illinois gaming board finishes its final due diligence and votting, a process that could take about a year.
Midwest Gaming has offered a total of $125 million upfront fee and an additional $300 million to be paid at about $10 million annually over the next thirty years. In their analysis, the gambling board staff stated that they believed that Midwest Gaming could fulfill the financial obligations of their bid. The Waukegan gaming board did not elaborate on what business dealings Waukegan Gaming had that were questionable, but there was a connection to a federal investigation of corruption in the state government.
Waukegan Gaming managing partner Ed Duffy has told the Illinois gaming board that Springfield powerbroker William Cellini has sold its ownership interested in a predecessor organization that wanted to open a casino facility in Waukegan. Cellini, who Duffy said has sold his interest about eighteen months ago, has been charged with thinking to push a business with the state for a $1.5 million campaign contribution to Governor Rod Blagojevich.
The gaming board also stated that Waukegan Gaming’s bid was financially unstable compared to the other casino finalists. Losing the gaming license was a disappointing defeat for Waukegan, a city south of the Wisconsin border that is struggling to redevelop after losing a lot of employment opportunities.
Giving the license to Neil Bluhm’s organization places the next Illinois’ casino in the suburb of Des Plaines, a city that has 57,000 people where the median income per household is about $57,000, which is bigger than the U.S. average household income, according to the U.S. Census data. Bluhm’s companies are developers or managers of five casino facilities in Canada, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.