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Steve Horve Outlines Proposal For Decatur Casino

Businessman Steve Horve

Businessman Steve Horve says his Decatur Conference Center and Hotel could host a small casino operated by two former Argosy Gaming Co. executives. Horve Hospitality Management.

Legislation to expand casino gambling in Illinois hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s gotten bigger.  The proposed legislation now includes licenses for smaller “satellite” casinos in Carterville and Decatur. And in early January, businessman Steve Horve announced a proposal to host the Decatur casino at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel, which he owns.

“I think it’s a great project for Decatur,” says Horve of the proposed casino, which would one-third to one-half the size of any of the ten existing casinos in Illinois. The businessman estimates that the casino would produce $3 million a year in tax revenue for the city, while expanded business at the conference center/hotel would add roughly $250,000 a year to city revenue from its hotel-motel tax.

Horve says he expects competing proposals if a casino license is created for Decatur. But for now, his is the only one.  Horve says Joe Urman and Jeff Roberts, former executives with Argosy Gaming Co., are interested in opening the casino at his facility. He says it would create about 200 new jobs, plus an estimated $3 million a year in new tax revenue. Meanwhile, Horve thinks the impact on his hotel could mean the creation of another 25 jobs, plus a doubling of hotel-motel tax revenue for the city of Decatur.

Besides the addition of smaller casinos in Decatur and Carterville, the proposed gambling expansion legislation has long included licenses for four new full-sized casinos, including one in Danville. A Decatur casino would just 80 miles away from the Danville casino, and the same distance from the existing Par-A-Dice casino in East Peoria. But Horve believes his facility can be competitive, in part because it would open sooner than the proposed Danville casino, which would have to build a new facility from scratch.

Once open, Horve believes all three casinos can co-exist, because they would draw customers from different regions. In the case of a Decatur casino, he believes its customer base would come from central Illinois, including the Springfield area.

Decatur has already seen an influx of video gambling in bars and other establishments in recent years. And some local businesses in Decatur that host video gaming have attacked the proposed casino, as competition from an out-of-town business. Horve disagrees. He says besides creating jobs, the casino would bring more visitors to Decatur.

“It’s good for Decatur, because those people will go out and eat, they can visit the mall, shopping, and all that,” said Horve.

Horve also dismisses critics who bring up the social costs of gambling. He argues that casinos in Alton and East Peoria have spurred economic development in their neighborhoods. Horve says that the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel is already in an economically stable area.

“The good thing is, we don’t have crime out there,” said Horve. “It’s a great neighborhood. Millikin University’s on that side of town.  And we think it will spur growth.”

But Horve’s casino proposal won’t go anywhere unless the General Assembly passes a bill that includes a casino license for Decatur.  Horve says he doesn’t think any such legislation can pass until the long-running state budget impasse is resolved. But he says Governor Bruce Rauner told him on a recent visit to Decatur that he’s open to considering the idea.

In the meantime, Horve says he hopes the Decatur City Council will endorse the casino concept.

“I would definitely welcome that support, because I think that it sends a message to the state, or legislators, that Decatur is receptive or wants (a casino),” said Horve.

According to the Herald and Review, Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe says the city council plans to consider the casino proposal as part of a larger discussion of gambling in the city. That discussion is expected to take place in March or April.