If a proposal for a casino at Walker’s Bluff in Carterville is successful, it would mean even more competition for Harrah’s Metropolis and the Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, as the trio is located within 60 miles of each other.

While the city’s coffers have benefitted from Harrah’s for years, due to a shrinking economy and competition from neighboring casinos, its share has decreased substantially. According to WSIL TV, Harrah’s currently makes $6.7 million annually versus the $12.6 million that Illinois Gaming Board reports show it made in 2006.

Approximately $178 million would be invested back into Southern Illinois if Walker’s Bluff receives approval for its expansion and is transformed from a winery and restaurant into an entertainment and lodging complex, or what Cynde Bunch refers to as a destination resort complex. David and Cynde Bunch own Walker’s Bluff Winery, which was completed in 2012, and now want to expand it into one that would include among other amenities a casino, which will require a gaming license. Currently, Walker’s Bluff includes an entertainment operation, a fine dining establishment, a general store, tasting room and Wine Cave.

A plan that would bring central and Southern Illinois smaller satellite casinos as well as a casino for Chicago was provided in legislation proposed in spring 2015. While Bunch was going to wait until the legislation worked itself out in the state’s capitol, she decided not to when she received word that lawmakers in Paducah were working on legislation of their own that would allow casinos in Kentucky, and that Paducah was pushing for a gambling hall close to its convention center. Now, employees at the winery are working hard to get the law passed in Illinois so the casino can be added to the proposed expansion.

If successful, both Harrah’s and the Isle will have to compete with the new casino, which means the money spent on gambling in the region will be divided further. Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel said only a certain percentage of the population gamble and that “Profit will regulate what the market can stand. And if it gets over populated with any one thing, someone’s going to lose.”

Approximately 1,100 construction jobs would be provided by the construction of the various amenities, according to an economic impact analysis provided by Walker’s Bluff. Once the project is completed, about 725 jobs would be available within the complex.

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