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State could pick three casino finalists Friday
By Rob Olmstead | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/12/2008 5:21 PM

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The Illinois Gaming Board may pick the three finalists for the state's 10th casino license as early as Friday afternoon, the agency announced Wednesday.

The board put out a notice that it will meet in closed session at 1 p.m. and then in open session at 2:30 p.m. to announce their selection. Although there is a chance the board might not be done by that time, the mere possibility it could come to pass required issuance of the notice under the Open Meetings Act, a spokesman said.

The board is currently evaluating six proposals for casino sites in Rosemont, Waukegan, Des Plaines, Country Club Hills, Harvey and Stickney. Rosemont had the highest upfront bid, but must overcome its tainted past in regards to casinos if it is to win. The town was the intended location for the Emerald Casino, but was foiled before the casino could open when state investigators discovered hidden Emerald investors who were tied to the mob.

Trilliant Gaming, Ill., LLC has offered $435 million up front in an effort to help gaming board members forget the last casino's checkered history. That's almost double the next-closest competitor, Waukegan Gaming LLC, which offered $225 million for the license.

But Trilliant's high bid may not be enough to assuage the gaming board, which has always said that upfront dollars alone will not determine who gets the casino. Hiring practices, revenue-sharing plans, location and other intangibles will be considered, the board has vowed.

Another factor to consider is that the bidding war is not over. Once the three finalists are chosen, the board will begin intense negotiations with them in order to try to drive up their bids.

Because of the dynamics involved in that process, some industry insiders speculate privately that even if the casino board doesn't intend to pick Rosemont, it may leave the town in the running as a stalking horse to drive up bids for the remaining two sites.

Still others think the board may sacrifice that bargaining leverage and leave Rosemont out of the final three in order to send a clear message that the drawn-out, decade-long saga of a Rosemont casino is over.