Churchill Downs Inc and Rush Street Gaming set out their case for a $150m casino development in Waukegan last week at a special meeting convened by the city’s Council. The two firms, which operate Rivers Casino Des Plaines, project that their program will generate up to $5m more per year for the Illinois city and other local communities than rival bidders. 

The Rivers Casino Waukegan team also committed to donating 2% of pre-tax income back to the community through ongoing charitable contributions, which they estimate will be $1m annually to begin with. Local municipal leaders will choose how Rivers’ charitable donations are used and these resources could be directed to local classrooms and educational causes.

“Over the next 50 years as we grow, it’s projected that Rivers Casino Waukegan will provide over $90m in charitable contributions to local communities which can be dedicated to public schools and educational causes,” said Neil Bluhm, chairman of Rush Street Gaming. “By our third year in operation, we project $11m in annual tax revenue for local host communities—the most of any of the bidders. 

“The city of Waukegan will benefit from an additional $2m in annual admissions taxes as well. Based on our superior performance, as we grow, the tax payments to local communities will increase significantly from these initial levels.”

The team went on to outline how the two firms’ proven marketing and customer service approach will attract high-end patrons to Waukegan and generate $282m in gross revenue by the fifth year of operation—resulting in more local taxes for the city and neighboring communities.

Rivers also promised the city monthly payments totaling $6m a year in lieu of tax revenue during construction, starting only six months from the date a gaming license is awarded if the developers elect to expedite construction of the permanent entertainment complex and forgo a temporary casino. 

“Churchill Downs Incorporated and Rush Street gaming are licensed and approved by regulators in 40 jurisdictions, including the Illinois Gaming Board, and we have unmatched experience in running successful casino and entertainment venues,” said Bill Carstanjen, Chief Executive Officer of Churchill Downs Incorporated. “We are proud to partner with Rush Street Gaming to bring our shared vision for a world-class entertainment destination to Waukegan and there is no doubt we will be the city’s best and most successful partner.”

Rivers touted its database of nearly 700,000 customers and its 10-year, $150m investment in building the Rivers brand as a tremendous advantage to Waukegan and among the reasons it can deliver the highest local tax revenue to the city.