$250 M casino proposed in Country Club Hills

Millennium Gaming's Bill Paulos touts possible Cannery Casino development in Country Club Hills on property northeast of I-80 and I-57 interchange. (Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune / November 13, 2012)

A casino development company based in North Las Vegas revealed plans today for a $250 million casino in Country Club Hills, a location that proponents say would draw gamblers from throughout the south suburbs.

However, the proposal faces two serious hurdles before construction can begin: state lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn must first approve gambling expansion legislation that would allow for five new casinos in Chicagoland, and Country Club Hills must be granted a license for one of the casinos.

State lawmakers have twice approved measures to allow five new casinos for Chicago, Rockford, Danville, the south suburbs and Park City in Lake County. The first bill never made it to Quinn’s desk after he threatened to veto it.

Quinn vetoed the second bill in August, possibly in an attempt to set up a deal with lawmakers that would tie passage of gambling expansion to reforms of the state’s struggling pension systems.

Despite the uncertain prospects of gambling expansion in Illinois, the developer behind the Country Club Hills proposal said today he’s optimistic that the legislation will eventually be approved.

“We just wanted to let everybody know that there is someone in the south suburbs that is ready, has an association with a great town and has incredible partners, and that financially we can get it done,” said Bill Paulos, a co-founder of Millennium Gaming, a majority owner in Cannery Casino Resorts.

Cannery Casino Resorts owns and operates two casinos in the Las Vegas area and another outside Pittsburgh.

The Country Club Hills proposal includes a casino, parking garage and 200-room hotel that would be built on vacant land at the northeast corner of South Cicero Avenue and 175th Street, near Interstates 57 and 80.

About 90 million motorists pass the site on the interstates every year, Paulos said.

The land is controlled by Lafayette Gatling Sr. and his wife, Marguerite, who own several businesses and claim to have the nation’s largest African-American-owned and operated funeral home, Gatling’s Chapel Inc. in Chicago.

The Gatlings would be partners in the development.

Even if gambling expansion is approved, Country Club Hills would have to vie with other suburbs for the license for a south suburban location.

Ford Heights also has a developer and location lined up, and dozens of towns spanning six townships — from Calumet City to Chicago Ridge — are allowed to make a pitch to the Illinois Gaming Board.

But Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch said the proposal in his suburb is best because of its central location and because Paulos says the casino could be open for business only 18 months after a license is approved.

“We’ve got to win this license,” Welch said at a news conference at the site today, standing with Paulos and other backers of the proposal. “It’s our turn, there’s no question about it.”

rhaggerty@tribune.com

Twitter @RyanTHaggerty