Illinois Gaming Board Revokes Emerald Casino's License

The Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously Tuesday to revoke the license of Emerald Casino -- the proposed riverboat gaming palace that once was expected to generate millions of dollars a year to support the state's racing industry.

The decision is a step toward reallocating the license to another group. But planned appeals and other legal entanglements make it unlikely the casino will deal cards or spin a roulette wheel anytime soon.

A sweeping rewrite of the state's gaming laws in 1999 authorized the move of a dormant casino license to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, near O'Hare International Airport. As part of the legislative horse trading that paved the way to passage, part of the casino's proceeds were allocated to other entities -- the University of Illinois, surrounding suburbs and race tracks. While the amount of support for racing would depend on the casino's net "take," it was expected to be millions of dollars per year.

Rosemont actually started construction of the casino infrastructure, based on the legislation. But the Gaming Board in 2000 questioning alleged organized crime ties to the project, slammed on the brakes. That started a complex legal battle that more than six years later still involves the state attorney general, several courts, the racing board itself and a special administrative law judge, former Abner Mikva.

Board chairman Aaron Jaffe, in announcing the decision to strip Emerald of its license, quoted Mikva's finding that the investor group operated on the premise of "Catch me if you can."

"My feeling," Jaffe said, "is that they were caught. They lost their game of 'Catch me if you can. They were caught. And they should lose their license."

Emerald officials said they will take the case to the Illinois Court of Appeals.

While the court fight over the Emerald license has dragged on, Illinois race track operators have tried repeatedly to win legislative approval for on-track slot machines as an alternative to their stake in the disputed casino. That issue has never even come to a vote.