Northwest Indiana casinos are likely to have at least another year — and possibly much longer — before they'll have to compete for patron dollars with a new casino in south suburban Cook County.
The Illinois Gaming Board revealed Thursday it is nowhere close to completing the background and financial investigations required before it can consider even preliminarily selecting between Calumet City, Lynwood, Homewood and Matteson for the new casino license authorized in June 2019 by the Illinois General Assembly.
Marcus Fruchter, Illinois Gaming Board administrator, said the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of normal work schedules and agency operations are partially to blame.
But Fruchter noted Illinois law also requires thorough investigations of every individual who holds a direct or indirect 1% ownership interest in any casino project, and the board currently is dealing with applicants for six potential new casinos, while also establishing a brand new sports wagering industry, and overseeing the continued growth of video gaming in restaurants, bars and other locations.
"The IGB is hard at work implementing the remaining items of the expansion, including the new casino licenses," Fruchter said.
He projected the board will be in a position to possibly begin the five-stage licensing process for the single applicants for the Rockford and Williamson County casinos in approximately six months.
While he said IGB evaluation of the multiple applicants for the south suburban and Waukegan casinos probably only will begin six months after the board receives a report from a yet-to-be-selected investment banking firm the IGB plans to hire to help the board with open and competitive bidding.
"I know this may be upsetting to some, but we have a process and we are remaining faithful to it," Fruchter said.
He did not announce a timeline for possible approval of the casino licenses authorized for Danville, whose lead applicant recently changed, or Chicago, whose gaming tax rates initially were deemed unlikely to attract any applicants following an independent review.
Once a licensing decision ultimately is made, it still could take additional months or years before gaming begins because the new casino and related amenities will need to be constructed.