Homewood trustees voted Tuesday night to take the next step towards developing a casino along with the Village of East Hazel Crest.
Two agenda items now help to set the stage for a potential future casino development. The first is an intergovernmental revenue sharing agreement between Homewood and the Village of East Hazel Crest. As the larger property holder, East Hazel Crest will be receiving 55 percent of proceeds, leaving Homewood with the remaining 45 percent.
Trustees also voted to hire law firm Barnes & Thornburg to solicit interest from casino businesses. Homewood Village President Richard Hofeld says the firm employs statisticians and financial analysts to determine the best, most profitable choice for the villages. This is a favorable means to partner with a casino for proposal, he says.
Homewood agreed to spend no more than $135,000 for legal fees. East Hazel Crest is expected to agree to a slightly higher spending cap. Should the villages decide to partner with a casino, the casino will reimburse both governments for 100 percent of the legal costs incurred, regardless of whether the project succeeds or fails.
Just the first step ...
The reality of a local casino is still a long way off, however, and trustees want residents to know their opinion counts.
“I think there’s a lot of concern that we’re trying to get this run through without having any public input,” said Trustee Tom Kataras. “We’re going to have public hearings. This is not a slam-dunk thing."
Village President Richard Hofeld says the village started thinking about a potential casino over two years ago when both Homewood and East Hazel Crest were looking for options to develop the land just southwest of I-294 and Halsted Street. Land developers told the village no large-scale retail stores were suitable for the location, Hofeld said—but a casino is.
Trustee Anne Colton helped to clarified the board’s current position for residents who may be off-put by the news.
“What we have to do is, we have to examine every possibility. We have to examine every opportunity that we have as a village to maintain and preserve our community,” Colton said. “So that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re just looking and we’re definitely going to have informational sessions within the next month or two.”
The aforementioned meeting will be held sometime in December, according to Hofeld. Both law firm Barnes & Thornburg and lobbyists will be present to answer questions, he says.
Perhaps the most pressing issue, though, is that there is not yet a South Suburban casino license available. But that’s not dissuading Hofeld.
“We’ve been told that this is a very opportune time for the legislation to pass in the veto session,” he said.
Should legislation pass and a license becomes available, there are still other obstacles, such as other proposals for South Suburban casinos. In the case of Country Club Hills, their proposal partner —claiming that Country Club Hills remains the ideal location for a casino. Not so, says Hofeld.
“I’m sure everyone feels that they have the best game in town, we know we have the best,” he said.
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