News Local/State

Danville Mayor Confident Of Casino Success

Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr.

Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. City of Danville

The mayor of Danville lives near a Big Lots store, where a bus from East Peoria’s Par-A-Dice Casino regularly stops to pick up customers. Mayor Rickey Williams Junior said he hopes a casino planned for his eastern Illinois city will lead to other buses bringing out-of-towners to Danville instead.

Williams promoted the planned casino during an appearance Monday on Illinois Public Media's statewide talk show, “The 21st”. The Danville City Council recently voted to approve Haven Gaming LLC to work with a local developer to open a casino along Lynch Road on the east end of the city. On Tuesday, October 14, the city council will hold a public hearing and vote on a resolution to approve the casino project, as well as a related zoning change.

Danville, a city near the Indiana border with a population of 33,000, is one of six locations selected to host a casino under gambling expansion legislation signed into law earlier this year. The other locations are Chicago, the south suburbs, Waukegan, Rockford and Williamson County in southern Illinois.

(Williams' appearance on "The 21st" was followed by interviews with reporters Jennifer Fuller and Chase Cavenaugh on the Williamson County and Rockford casino projects). 

Williams said Danville’s casino will be a destination resort, with hotels, a conference center and an entertainment venue, in addition to gambling.

“We’re excited about the opportunity for work for our citizens but also for the revenue that it will bring, and the benefits that it will provide to the community at large,” Williams told interviewer Lee Gaines.

While gambling of all types is on the rise in Illinois, Williams said he’s not worried about a saturated market hurting the casino’s profitability. He’s not even worried about a new Indiana casino proposed for Terre Haute near the state line. Voters there will decide whether to allow that project in a November referendum.

“We don’t have any competitors for a 90-mile radius in Danville right now,” said Williams. “And even when Terre Haute is built, that’s still about an hour and 15 minutes away from us, if they pass that.”

Williams said he’s planning on the casino producing 6 to 8 million dollars a year in revenue for Danville’s city government, which currently has an operating budget of around $54 million. The mayor wants to spend the casino revenue on infrastructure and paying down pension debt for the police and fire departments. Haven Gaming is estimating the casino will generate about twice as much money for the city as Williams’ projection, once the facility is expanded to its full size.

Williams said there are already video gaming parlors scattered throughout Danville. So he doesn’t think a casino will increase the danger of gambling addiction beyond its present scale.

But the mayor said the casino will be required by Illinois’ gambling laws to provide information on help for gambling addiction.

“We are working with, not only mental health providers but also the faith-based community in our city to be ready to deal with issues of addiction, should they arise,” said Williams.

The Illinois Department of Human Services runs a gambling addiction hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER, as well as a website offering help with problem gambling, .

The Danville casino is still just a proposal. Haven Gaming has until October 28 to apply for a gaming license from the Illinois Gaming Board, and the waiting time for approval could be several months, although Williams hopes it will be shorter.