News Local/State

Danville Mayor Discusses Casino Plans


The Hollywood Casino, downtown Aurora. Jenna Dooley/WNIJ

After years of trying, the city of Danville now has the state’s permission to host a casino, thanks to Illinois’ new gambling expansion law.

The city and Vermilion Development, a Chicago-based development firm with roots in Danville, are looking for an operator to run the casino, which will be built in the Southgate Industrial Park area, near the Indiana border. Vermilion Development will be a partner with the operator in the casino.

A casino steering committee made up of city and business leaders has been formed to recommend a candidate for casino operator to the Danville City Council on the project. One of the committee members is Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr., who talked about the process with Illinois Public Media’s Jim Meadows.

Meadows: Where do things stand right now as far as the process of finding a developer and an operator for a casino in Danville?

Williams: Well, we had seven entities submit Intents To Reply. And they have until next Wednesday, July 31, to submit their proposals. So currently, we are just waiting to receive actual applications to our S.O.I. (Solicitation Of Intent) from potential operators.

Meadows: That does sound like a pretty good field to choose from.

Williams: Yes, sir, it is, we're pretty excited.

Meadows: But at the same time, you're working on a pretty tight deadline, because of that detail of the gaming law. You have to get an application (for a state gaming license from the Illinois Gaming Board) in by the end of October?

Williams: October 28. So we are rapidly losing time to get this finished. We have 96 days left, in fact.

Meadows: 96 days, so essentially a three-month window here. And Mayor, I was wondering, considering all the growth in other types of gambling over the years since the idea of a casino in Danville was first proposed, what do you think the size and scope of a Danville casino will be once it's built?

Williams: Well, I think that will be largely determined by the operators. And we should know that once we receive their applications. But I am guessing that we can have up to 2000 positions. It's my expectation that we'll have something around the 1000 to 1400 position range.

Meadows: And when we're talking about positions, just to translate, those are gambling slots, gambling machines at the casino.

Williams: That is correct.

Meadows: What are your hopes for the economic impact of a casino, whether it's jobs, tax revenue or other development?

Williams: Our expectation is that we would hopefully have at least 400 to 600 new jobs. Revenue projections are a little tough to say, because of some of the aforementioned, items that you mentioned in terms of the increase in other types of gambling. I know at one point, they projected us to have at least $6 million or so in revenue a year. I'm not sure if we'll hit that anymore. But I think we could receive upwards of $4 million a year.

Meadows: So when you take these numbers and look at the potential impact on the city, how much of a change do you think it could make?

Williams: Well, it will be a huge change. If we were to get around the $5 million range. That would be an increase in approximately 10% in our revenue each year.

Meadows: And at the same time that you're making plans for a casino in Danville, I understand there are plans for a casino in Terre Haute, Indiana as well. Voters will be looking at a referendum on a casino there in November. Considering that for a Danville casino, the idea has always been to draw customers from Indiana, what do you think the impact will be of having a Terre Haute casino as well?

Williams: I think that's truly uncertain. The good news is they're at least an hour and some change away from us. We will be further along in the process than they are. So I think it will certainly impact us some, but I think not in a drastic way.

Meadows: What sort of timetable are we looking at for this development to go ahead? I understand that nothing is certain, but starting with the deadline that you have to send something into the state, what would you hope to happen in Danville with the casino?

Williams: I would hope that within two years at most, that we would have a casino open and fully operating.

Meadows: Okay, so a casino by 2021. And maybe some other development going along with it?

Williams: Yes. So by the end of 2021 or early 2022, at the absolute latest, and then hopefully subsequent development to support that. We've been in need of restaurants out there. We have over 500 hotel rooms just in that corridor alone and no restaurants, so to speak, to support them. So we definitely could use that. In addition to the entire town. I think that Danville is a place where we like to eat. And we certainly could use more restaurants and a greater diversity of restaurants as well.