Illinois Gaming Board

Full House wins Waukegan casino license; Wind Creek picked for south suburban project

Rendering for Full House Resorts' proposed American Place venue in Waukegan, Illinois.
United States
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Full House Resorts has been selected by the Illinois Gaming Board as the winner of a casino license for Waukegan, the company announced on Wednesday. The Nevada-based business’ $400 million American Place gaming and entertainment destination proposal was originally one of five projects submitted in response to a “request for proposal” launched in 2019.

“We thank the Illinois Gaming Board for their confidence in Full House Resorts and for selecting our American Place proposal,” said Daniel R. Lee, President and Chief Executive Officer of Full House Resorts. “We will begin working immediately on American Place, first with the development and construction of a temporary casino in Waukegan, Illinois.”

Through its planned temporary facility, named The Temporary by American Place, the company expects to be able to quickly create jobs and generate tax revenues while the permanent American Place facility is being built. The temporary facility is expected to open in mid-2022

“Our permanent American Place facility is designed to be a world-class destination for nearby Chicagoland residents and the entire region, and will include luxurious amenities such as an all-villa hotel with full butler service,” further said Lee. “We are excited to join the Waukegan community and welcome the opportunity to bring our American Place vision to life, with completion of our full experience expected in 2024.”

Full House Resorts’ American Place destination will be located in Waukegan, Illinois, midway between Chicago and Milwaukee. It will be developed at the shuttered Fountain Square shopping center. It is slated to include a world-class casino with a state-of-the-art sportsbook, according to a company press release.

Moreover, the venue will feature a premium boutique hotel, comprising 20 luxurious villas, each ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet with full butler service; a 1,500-seat live entertainment venue; a gourmet restaurant; additional eateries and bars; and other amenities. The second phase of American Place is expected to include a four-star hotel with 150 rooms.

State regulators also named their chosen developer to break ground on a new casino on the border of south suburban Homewood and East Hazel Crest, thus ending two selection processes that dragged on for extended periods of time due to the pandemic. 

Illinois thus takes two important steps in its massive gambling expansion, signed into law two and a half years ago by Gov. Pritzker. The expansion created six new casino licenses, introduced legal sports betting and allowed for slots and table games at racetracks, among other new features.

The Waukegan casino license was initially set to be issued last month, but was delayed due to a judicial process launched by a federal lawsuit filed by a rival foiled bidder. The Forest County Potawatomi Community sued Waukegan in 2019 after its proposal was eliminated from the race, claiming the selection process was “rigged.”

The tribe claims city officials aimed to favor North Point’s bid, which was backed by former state Sen. Michael Bond. Bond is accused of pouring thousands of dollars into local elections in an effort to sway the licensing process. North Point’s proposal ended up being rejected on Wednesday.

While the Potawatomi filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the state’s Gaming Board from moving ahead with its selection until their lawsuit is resolved, a judge turned down that request on Tuesday, Chicago Sun-Times reports. Cook County Judge Cecilia Horan said the tribe didn’t have the legal standing to hold up the selection.

However, the Potawatomi tribe is planning to continue pursuing “all available legal paths,” according to a spokesman. This includes continuing to participate in the ongoing federal mediation with the city in an effort to find “the best solutions for the citizens of Waukegan.”

Both companies granted licenses on Wednesday can now start laying the groundwork for their casinos. Of the six venues permitted in the gambling expansion, only Hard Rock in Rockford has started taking bets, while Pritzker attended the groundbreaking of a new casino in downstate Williamson County also on Wednesday.