Churchill Downs is apparently no longer interested in operating a casino in Waukegan. The company withdrew its bid for licensing just a few hours after it was announced that its Arlington property would go to the Chicago Bears. The NFL team has agreed to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse for just over $197 million.
The deal ensures that a rival casino developer will not be able to offer services near its Rivers Casino facility in Des Plaines, Illinois. It was a smart move by Churchill Downs to sell to the Bears and now the decision has caused rumors to circulate that the company may be eyeing the Chicago area for casino gaming.
On Wednesday afternoon, officials of Churchill Downs told gambling regulators in Illinois that the company was removing its application for casino licensing in Waukegan. The application was submitted almost two years ago in conjunction with Rush Street Gaming. The decision has many speculating that the goal now is to propose a venue in Chicago, however, this has not been confirmed.
Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Rush Street Gaming, said that it was just a coincidence that the company withdrew its application on the same day that Churchill Downs announced the Bears were taking over Arlington.
The application was filed when gambling expansion plans were approved in the state, adding six new casinos in the mix.
The city of Chicago is hopeful that a plan will be proposed to bring a quality casino destination to the city. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has not been shy about what she would like to see and recently extended the deadline for applications regarding the new casino.
Applications were due at the end of August, but there has been little interest by companies to vie for licensing. The mayor has now pushed the deadline to October 29. It seems the city’s requirements may be keeping operators for applying for licensing.
Chicago wants to see an investment of $1 billion from the license holder with a 500-guest room, 5-Star hotel created along with a large gaming floor. Analysts feel that there is little potential to expand traditional gaming in the region and it would be a big risk for an operator to spend so much on a casino resort in Chicago.
For now, it will be interesting to see if Churchill Downs or Rush Street Gaming throws a hat in the ring for potential licensing in Chicago. It could be that the stakes are too high and officials in Chicago will have to lower their expectations before any proposals start rolling in.