Homewood, East Hazel Crest join forces to bring casino to south suburbs

2012-11-28T00:00:00Z 2012-11-28T00:23:06Z Homewood, East Hazel Crest join forces to bring casino to south suburbsTimes Staff nwitimes.com
November 28, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The villages of Homewood and East Hazel Crest have announced a partnership to bring a casino to a vacant site west of Halsted Street and south of Interstate 80/294.

The village of Homewood announced the plan on its website Monday.

"Due to its proximity to the Indiana border, this location is ideally situated to generate significant revenue for the State of Illinois, drawing customers who travel to Indiana's casinos and allowing Illinois to capture revenue it has been losing for years," the news release said.

The Homewood Village Board was set to vote last night on an agreement establishing a formal partnership and revenue sharing agreement between the villages. East Hazel Crest will vote on the agreement tonight.

A second agreement will hire the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, which has offices in downtown Chicago and Indianapolis, to solicit gaming facility developers and operators.

The villages are expected to host a joint meeting in mid-December on the initiative. Calumet City, Lynwood, Ford Heights and Country Club Hills have also expressed an interest in a south suburban casino.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in August vetoed legislation permitting new casinos in Chicago and the south suburbs that would have directly competed with Northwest Indiana's five lakefront casinos.

The Democratic governor said in his veto message that Senate Bill 1849 did not include adequate ethics protections, in particular a ban on campaign donations from casino owners and managers.

But members of the Senate Executive Committee are scheduled to debate legislation today to impose a campaign contribution ban on casino and horse track owners as part of a larger package of reforms designed to bring Quinn on board with a plan to add five more casinos to the state’s fleet of 10.

Quinn’s office earlier distributed a draft of an amendment that would address campaign contributions from gambling interests.

“Banning all types of political campaign contributions by certain persons ... is necessary to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption that may arise when political campaign contributions and gaming regulated by the State are intermingled,” the governor’s draft notes.

But, the proposal being heard by the Senate panel today differs from the governor’s draft language.

For example, Quinn’s version appears to only target owners and top management of gambling-related enterprises. State Sen. Terry Link’s proposal also would affect bar owners and truck stop operators who have installed video gambling terminals in their establishments.

Casino owners, who oppose the expansion, say they haven’t yet taken a position on the contribution ban. Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Owners Association, said his lobbying group is more concerned about the overall legislation, which could create more competition for his members for the state’s existing casinos.

“That is the last of our concerns in this legislation,” Swoik said.

It remained unclear Monday whether lawmakers would override Quinn’s veto of the massive expansion plan and then attempt to approve follow-up legislation addressing Quinn’s concerns.

The House and Senate also could rewrite the entire package to accommodate some or all of Quinn’s concerns and attempt to move it through the legislature.

In addition to adding new casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Lake County and Chicago’s south suburbs, the proposal would allow horse racing tracks to offer slot machines.

- Lee News Service contributed to this report.

Lee News Service contributed to this report.

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