East Hazel Crest approves Wind Creek casino proposal

The East Hazel Crest Board of Trustees approved two measures at its Wednesday night meeting in support of the proposed casino at Halsted Street and Interstate 80/294. 

Village President Thomas Brown said the vote was unanimous, 5 to 0, on both a resolution to support the application for a casino license proposal by Wind Creek Hospitality of Alabama, and a memorandum of understanding regarding the distribution of shared revenue from the casino's operation. One board member was absent.

Brown said that in addition to the board, the community is solidly behind the project, which represents a big opportunity for the small village of about 1,500 residents.

He said nearly 100 people attended the public hearing prior to the votes, and there was little dissent. In fact, after the votes, residents gave the board an ovation, he said.

"I'm not surprised. We've been working on this for a long time," Brown said. "Our often-ignored little village now has an opportunity to do something really big."

The property where the casino will be developed straddles the boundary between East Hazel Crest and Homewood. The two villages first entered into an intergovernmental agreement in 2012 to cooperate on the project of redeveloping the property.

Back then, the property was the site of two run-down hotels, the last of which was demolished in August 2015. 

"We said, 'We've got a common problem. Let's work together to get this developed,'" Brown said.  

To put the impact of the project on East Hazel Crest in perspective, Brown noted that the total investment of $400 million in the casino complex is more than 16 times the size of the village's annual budget. The town has 1,500 people, and the project will add 800 jobs, according to Wind Creek officials.

Homewood's board of trustees approved a resolution on Monday supporting the project. Now the fate of the project lies in the hands of the Illinois Gaming Commission. 

Applications for the south suburban casino license are due at the end of October, but it could take up to a year for the final decision from the commission.

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