Ho-Chunk Nation Joins Race for a Casino License in Chicago’s South Suburbs 

The Ho-Chunk Nation is the fourth Tribe to submit a proposal for a casino in Illinois, joining the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Seminole Nation, among other businesses, in pursuit of one of six new gaming licenses in the state. 

The Ho-Chunk Nation seeks to win the sole license to operate a casino in the south suburbs of Chicago. In July 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a gambling package into law that expands the number of casinos licenses available in Illinois — in Waukegan, Rockford, Danville, Williamson County, the south suburbs of Chicago, and the city of Chicago.

The Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation recently pitched its $380 million casino to Lynwood village board members. The proposal includes a 20-story luxury hotel, plus restaurants, bars and retail space, all near the Southland Center sports complex currently operated by Ho-Chunk. The Tribe has been met with support from Lynwood and surrounding neighborhoods. Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams said the development could eventually include amenities such as a movie theater and water park, and called the Ho-Chunk proposal “a beautiful plan” for a “family entertainment district,” reported the Chicago Sun-Times

Wind Creek Hospitality, the gaming arm of the Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians, is also filing an application for a casino license for a south suburban location, on property that straddles the villages of East Hazel Crest and Homewood. The Wisconsin-based Forest County Potawatomi Community’s Potawatomi Hotel & Casino is pursuing the sole commercial casino in the city of Waukegan, Illinois, in the heart of Potawatomi treaty lands. Hard Rock International is after the single casino license in Rockford, and has successfully beat two other contenders to win the city’s endorsement. Now Hard Rock is preparing its application for the Illinois Gaming Board before the late October deadline. 

Multiple towns in the south suburbs of Chicago have shown interest in winning the one license earmarked for the area. “This is an important opportunity to spur economic development growth and create jobs in the south suburbs and we have a proven track record of getting it right,” Ho-Chunk Nation District 4 Legislator Paul J. Fox said in a statement. “Over the last 15 years, we have built strong relationships in the region, as demonstrated by the development and operation of the Southland Center, and we are committed to strengthening those ties and deepening that investment.”

Ho-Chunk’s ties to the area — Ho-Chunk own more than 120 acres and currently operates the Southland Center sports complex — and family-centered tourism approach may give the Tribe a unique advantage to winning the single license for the south suburbs of Chicago. Ho-Chunk said it would open a temporary gaming facility, near the Southland Center sports complex, while construction of the permanent structure is underway. In about two years, once the permanent facility is up and running, the temporary building would be used for additional indoor sports activities like racquetball, pickleball and a golf simulator, according to the plans.

“We think it’s a regional effort that’ll make this a better proposal,” Mayor Williams said. “On both sides of [Highway] 394, we’ve been missing out on economic development for years.”

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