HomeIllinois Sports Betting NewsWaukegan Temporary Casino Producing Big Numbers

Waukegan Temporary Casino Producing Big Numbers

The success of an Illinois casino called "The Temporary by American Place" in Waukegan - a city about 25 miles north of Chicago - recently was cited as a key factor in parent company Full House Resorts reporting a 73% increase in earnings in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the same quarter in 2022.

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The Temporary’s $23.9 million in revenue helped boost the overall revenue for Full House to $71.5 million for the quarter.

“As envisioned, results at The Temporary by American Place continued to improve during the third quarter,” Full House Resorts President and CEODaniel R. Lee said in the company’s quarterly earnings call.

“Our table games business at The Temporary was strong initially, and continued to build as we hired more dealers and increased the number of available table games. Our slots business also continues to ramp up, aided by our guest database that continues to grow meaningfully in size with every passing week,” Lee added.

“The Temporary’s available amenities also continue to expand. We are close to unveiling the last remaining amenity at The Temporary – North Shore Steaks and Seafood, the property’s high-end dining option – which we expect to open at the end of the fourth quarter.”

Full House also has used its casino license to gain a partnership with Circa Sports Illinois both for the brick-and-mortar sportsbook as well as a Circa mobile app. The retail sportsbook took its first bets in October, with legendary Chicago Bears linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher on hand to celebrate the occasion.

Circa’s mobile sports betting app also is available in Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada. The company’s sportsbook is popular with high-end “sharp bettors” because of its willingness to accept large wagers that many of its more high-profile Illinois sportsbook rivals refuse to do.

Circa also is renowned for its $9 million “NFL Survivor” contest in Las Vegas, whereby participants must correctly choose one winning team each week to stay alive – with the caveat that each team can only be chosen once.

The property at the Fountain Square Shopping Center in Waukegan includes “The Mansion at American Place,” an all-suite, 20-room hotel designed VIP guests and boasting amenities worthy of a Las Vegas locale.

Nearly 1,000 slot machines and dozens of table games such as blackjack, craps, baccarat, and roulette also are part of the experience for visitors in the Lake County facility between Chicago and Milwaukee.

The Temporary opened in February 2023.

Permanent Waukegan Casino Plans in Jeopardy?

Not all is well for Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts, however.

After a lower court initially rejected a legal claim by the Potawatomi Tribe to nullify the state’s license approval in Waukegan, in August 2023 the Illinois First District Appellate Court reversed the conclusion that the tribe lacked legal standing to file a lawsuit.

“Potawatomi Casino pursued a significant business opportunity to fairly compete for a casino license, and where that opportunity was denied due to the city’s alleged failure to perform the process lawfully, there is a distinct and palpable injury,” Justice Raymond Mitchell wrote in subjecting the issue to further review.

The lawsuit against the city of Waukegan dates back to October 2019, when the City Council rejected the tribe’s bid while selecting three other finalists. Tribal leaders called the process “rigged” and claimed that former Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham directed the council on how to vote. Cunningham served as mayor from 2017-2021 before being defeated in a bid for a second term.

A city-issued report found that the Potawatomi proposal rated first or second in almost every category – but that the tribe’s bid of $5.6 million for the casino land was lower than all other bidders. The tribe contend its actual bid was a more competitive $12 million, but attorneys for the city have countered that the tribe’s filing is a “scorched earth lawsuit that is factually suspect.”

Alderman Keith Turner offered sworn testimony that en route to the October 2019 council vote, Cunningham informed him that, “These are the three [bids] we want sent to Springfield,” meaning the state capitol. But Cunningham responded that Turner’s claim was a “flat-out lie.”

Full House CEO Lee has conceded that the timeline for start of construction of the permanent $400 million Waukegan facility – initially scheduled to open in 2024 – is now “in flux a little bit.” The new facility would feature a 1,500-seat theater and, eventually, a full-scale hotel.

The Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, which opened in 1991 as the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, has more than 3,000 slot machines and five dozen gaming tables along with 500 hotel rooms. It was the first “off-reservation” casino in the U.S.

In a worst-case scenario for Full House, the state might have to redo the bidding process and potentially award the Waukegan license instead to the Potawatomi tribe, which already has a casino in Milwaukee.

Some relief appears to be on the way for Full House, however. Earlier in November, the state General Assembly agreed on a bill that would extend the deadline the company has to open the permanent facility from Feb. 2025 – or 24 months after The Temporary opened.

The extension, which awaits a signature from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, would give Full House as much as an extra 30 more months to open the permanent site.

Bally’s already has received a 12-month extension on building its own permanent downtown Chicago casino, giving the company until October 2026. The temporary Bally’s site, at Medinah Temple, opened in September.