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‘It’s our time:’ Country Club Hills casino plan unveiled

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Updated: December 15, 2012 6:19AM



If the state gets on board with gambling expansion, Country Club Hills officials are hedging their bets with North Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts.

Bill Paulos, whose company is a majority owner of Cannery Casino Resorts, said the firm is ready to open a $250 million casino within 1-1/2 years if the state Legislature approves an expansion of gambling that includes a south suburban casino.

“Understanding we do not have a law yet ... we want everyone to know we’re prepared,” Paulos said. “We’re here, we’re ready and we’re able.”

Paulos, who has helped developed Las Vegas casino resorts such as Excalibur and the Luxor, stood alongside elected officials while unveiling the project Tuesday at the Country Club Hills Wellness Center, 4411 Gatling Blvd.

Newly elected State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Orland Hills) also put his support behind the project.

“This casino comes at the right time, it’s at the right place, and we need it now more than ever,” Hastings said.

The 40-acre site at the northeast corner of 175th Street and Cicero Avenue, near the interchange between Interstates 80 and 57, would include a casino, parking garage and a 200-room hotel.

About 250 jobs would be created during the project’s construction phase, and additional “family-sustaining jobs” would be created once the casino is open, Paulos said.

He said the casino will complement the existing businesses off 167th Street including the Wal-Mart and the AMC movie theater as well as Country Club Hills outlet mall, which he claims will begin construction by June 2014. Developers have previously claimed the outlet mall would open as early as 2009.

Paulos said the site is a natural fit for a casino since it is more than 20 miles away from any neighboring casino and because more the 90 million people pass through the I-80 and 57 exchange annually.

Cannery Casino Resorts would develop the project in partnership with Lafayette and Marguerite Gatling, owners of the Gatling’s Chapel funeral homes in Chicago. They own the land the property sits on.

Before the company can realize its plans, the state Legislature would have to pass a gambling expansion bill that Gov. Pat Quinn would agree to, or one that would garner enough votes to withstand a Quinn veto.

Quinn in August vetoed a bill that would have established riverboat casinos in an undetermined south suburban location as well as in Danville, Park City, Rockford and Chicago.

Under that bill, municipalities in Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Rich, Thornton and Worth townships could submit bids for the casino, and the Illinois Gaming Board would select the winner. The mayors of Chicago Heights, Ford Heights, Lynwood and Calumet City also have expressed interest in pursuing a casino.

Paulos said he didn’t think his pledge to build a casino in Country Club Hills would sway lawmakers.

“That’s like battling Santa Claus at Christmastime,” Paulos said. “We don’t pressure politicians. They know what’s best for the state.”

Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch was optimistic about his city’s chances.

“We’re going to get it,” Welch said. “It’s our time.”



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