By Bob Kieckhefer
Hawthorne Race Course has lost its bid to build and operate Illinois' 10th riverboat casino, with three other potential sites making the final cut.
While a disappointment for Hawthorne, which envisioned transformation to an entertainment destination site, the decision by the Illinois Gaming Board still is positive news for Illinois racing, which will get 15% of the revenue generated by a new casino, wherever it is located.
Hawthorne and its partners bid far less than others seeking the license. But they argued they could be operating more quickly than other sites, they have a superior location, and they already host gambling anyway. The Gaming Board apparently was not impressed.
Without going into its reasons, the Board Nov. 14 picked Des Plaines, Rosemont, and Waukegan as the three finalists. All are north and northwest suburbs of Chicago.
The potential bad news in the decision is that Rosemont already is viewed with a jaundiced eye by the Illinois Attorney General. Any further questions or challenges to the suitability of Rosemont, should it be the final selection, could further delay the flow of new money to the state and to racing.
The 10th casino license has been in legal limbo since it was awarded to Rosemont during the last round of bidding several years ago. Attorney General Lisa Madigan and others raised issues about the community's alleged ties to organized crime and the veracity of some statements surrounding the application.
A Madigan spokeswoman said the attorney general "remains concerned" about the Rosemont site, although the current bid is by different parties than the last one. She said Madigan will be interested in hearing about the IGB addresses concerns, "including Rosemont's past conduct."
Board officials said they will continue to probe the "character, reputation, and integrity" of bidders representing the sites of all three finalists.