Today, local leaders and citizens who support a plan to expand and transform Walker’s Bluff from a winery and restaurant into an entertainment and lodging complex in Southern Illinois will travel to the state’s capital to present their case to legislators, according to The Southern Illinoisan.
Emily Burke, project relations consultant for the Carterville winery, said charter buses will be filled with about 100 supporters who plan to address the General Assembly today, one of the five days this month on which the legislature is scheduled to hold veto sessions.
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. According to the report, in addition to the casino, the proposed destination resort complex, as Cynde Bunch refers to it, would feature a 300-room hotel, four additional restaurants, a multi-purpose convention, conference, and entertainment center, and indoor water park, and spa facilities.
Burke said the project has the support of a number of local business leaders and elected officials. She said the group plans to bring copies of successful resolutions and letters from regional employers such as Pepsi, SIU, and SIH. Burke said, “They see this as a stabilizing opportunity for the local economy as much as we do,” according to the news agency.
In a recent news release, Cynde Bunch, the founder and CEO of Walker’s Bluff, said that approximately 1,200 construction jobs would be generated by the construction of the project and once the complex is up and running, about 800 permanent, full-time positions would be available.
Earlier this year, reports indicated that approximately $178 million would be invested back into Southern Illinois if Walker’s Bluff receives approval for its expansion. 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.
Burke said, “Our legislators have a great opportunity to recognize that Southern Illinois could become a major conference destination — it’s not every day that we have a chance to become part of a billion-dollar industry,” as reported by the news agency.