DANVILLE — Despite the Illinois Gaming Board not meeting in the past few months due to the coronavirus pandemic and casino plans moving more quickly in Terre Haute, Ind., Haven Gaming Attorney Scott Sypolt says they still remain ready for construction to begin as soon as the IGB would give casino license approval.
A gaming bill amendment, approved by the Illinois House and Senate during the weekend and having Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s support, extends the licensing process for a casino in Danville.
“I see it as a positive thing...” Sypolt said about the large amount of work the IGB has to do in a short amount of time.
He thinks the time extension was needed.
“They’ve lost three months and probably June too,” he said, adding that the board might meet in June, but he thinks the IGB will initially focus on reopening existing casinos and sports betting.
Illinois Gaming Board meetings in March through May have not occurred due to the coronavirus pandemic. The gaming bill amendment Pritzker is to sign allows the Illinois Gaming Board to extend the Danville casino application period for six months if a license isn’t granted.
According to Mayor Rickey Williams Jr., his understanding is that legislators wanted to ensure that if the gaming board hasn’t issued any licenses prior to Oct. 1, as is currently required, that they still will in the near future.
Sypolt said Haven, unlike some other groups, remains financially ready.
“We’re self funded,” he said. “We’re ready to go quickly. Our group remains intact and solid.”
He said Haven continues to have its finances and management intact, despite the pandemic.
“We’re ready to go tomorrow,” he said, adding that they also have a construction company lined up.
Haven officials remain excited and committed to Danville, he said.
Haven was hoping to get a jump start, ahead of Terre Haute, with Sypolt saying whichever opens first, “obviously that would benefit you tremendously.”
The pandemic really turned things inside out, he added.
In addition to the bill allowing for the Danville license application extension, the tax structure for the new casinos would now be graduated — the more money a casino makes, the more it will have to pay in city and state taxes.
The IGB’s next meeting is currently scheduled for June 11 in Chicago.
The gaming board’s March agenda included a suitability hearing on Haven Gaming, which is the step before license application approval.
Williams at that time said he was disappointed the hearing and meeting was delayed.
According to IGB gambling owners license requirements for a finding of preliminary suitability, the applicant must meet background, funding and other requirements.
If the board finds the applicant not preliminarily suitable for licensing, it shall issue the applicant a notice of denial.
The board earlier this year didn’t allow Haven to amend its casino license application regarding key persons and investors.
Under the gambling expansion bill enacted last year, lawmakers authorized six additional land-based casinos, including one in Danville.
The Danville City Council selected Haven Gaming LLC as the city’s casino operating partner in October 2019, and Haven submitted its casino license application to the IGB at the end of that month.
The IGB had up to a year to conduct background checks and go over requirements in approving a casino license application.
The proposed Danville casino will have 1,250 slot machines, 40 gaming tables and also sports betting lounges and bars, a 2,500 seat entertainment venue, conference/banquet center, 300-seat buffet, a boutique hotel and rooftop spa/salon, pool and lazy river, celebrity-style restaurants and other amenities.
The casino could increase to the maximum 2,000 slot machine seats.
The starter, or temporary, casino would have about 500 slot machines and 10-20 table games.
It could take three to four years, depending on weather, for three phases of the casino’s development. Phase 1 was estimated to cost $118 million.