Somewhat overshadowed by the process of Bally’s moving forward as the applicant for Chicago’s downtown casino license, Wind Creek quietly broke ground for another casino in Illinois, this one located in the south suburbs of Cook County.
The Illinois Gaming Board selected Wind Creek over South Suburban Development last December, capping a process that was delayed in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lengthy process in procuring a financial analyst to review the bids for the state agency. South suburban Cook County was one of six areas awarded a casino license in the June 2019 gaming expansion bill signed by Gov. JB Pritzker that also legalized sports wagering and is the fourth of the six where operators have broken ground.
Hard Rock is the lone operator of the group currently conducting gaming, operating a temporary venue in Rockford since last November as its permanent venue is being built. Wind Creek opted to bypass constructing a temporary casino and expressed the goal of opening its casino 15 months from groundbreaking. With shovels in the ground, that target date appears to be September 2023 if all goes according to plan.
“Wind Creek doesn’t just build casinos, we truly build communities,” said Stephanie Bryan, tribal chair and CEO, Poarch Creek Indians, in a statement. “We’re so very thankful for the support of community leaders, local organizations, and residents of the south suburbs who helped get us to this point — and look forward to working with you to ensure that the benefits associated with this project are experienced by the entire region.”
Wind Creek estimated creating 600 new construction jobs for the 70,000-square-foot casino when making its presentation to the IGB as well as generating $155 million in revenue by 2025. The casino will straddle the villages of East Hazel Crest and Homewood, approximately 10 miles from the Indiana state line. Illinois has made repatriating gaming revenue from the Hoosier State a priority, with Chicago CFO Jennie Huang Bennett estimating the state loses $331 million annually during her remarks to the city council as Bally’s sought approval.
Specs and details of Wind Creek Chicago Southland
The other key component of the first phase of Wind Creek’s $440 million casino, which would create 800 full-time positions, is a 252-room hotel with 53 suites that projects to open in June 2024. Wind Creek, which committed to purchasing the maximum 2,000 gaming positions allowed during its presentation, expects to have 1,350 slot machines and 56 table games operational upon opening.
Wind Creek, along with the two villages, also announced the creation of the Southland Public Benefit Fund. The fund will distribute $150,000 annually in scholarships for disadvantaged students in the region as well as healthcare services through a series of local partnerships. That distribution will reach $1 million annually when the total amount invested among all partners reaches $20 million.
“Our commitment to this community has already begun and will only be strengthened as we move our focus to job creation and finalizing the details of the Southland Public Benefit Fund,” said Jay Dorris, president and CEO of Wind Creek Hospitality. “People across the Southland have been waiting for this casino and the community investment that comes along with it, and we’re happy to be taking concrete steps to see this dream realized.”
Wind Creek will have its work cut out to be a success in what is already a gaming-rich area. Indiana’s three casinos in the northwest part of the state combined to generate nearly $89 million in win during April, and the newest venue — Hard Rock Northern Indiana — generated $372 million in revenue in its first 12 months of operation that concluded in April. It is also unknown what effect the downtown Chicago casino could have on potential revenue given Bally’s proposed casino location is approximately 30 miles from where Wind Creek broke ground.
Photo courtesy Wind Creek Hospitality