Proponents of a gambling and entertainment complex in Danville have painted a rosy picture of the future.
Developers of a proposed casino-resort in Danville said they were going for the “wow” factor when they presented their plans last week to the city council.
Well, they certainly achieved that goal, perhaps even more.
Representatives of Haven Gaming LLC promised a “family-oriented destination” facility featuring a plush hotel, entertainment, restaurants, a spa and — oh, yes — plenty of gambling options. There will be jobs aplenty that generate increases in tax revenue and profits that will support large financial gifts supporting municipal projects and community groups.
On the surface, it not only sounds good — it sounds irresistible.
That’s why the city council selected Haven after considering rival bidders.
Scott Sypolt, a Chicago lawyer representing Haven, said his client is “doing something” in Danville that will be “unlike any other (casino) location in Illinois.”
That kind of rhetoric may be a bridge too far. After all, if and when a Chicago-based casino ever gets going, it should be the equivalent of the most palatial gambling developments in the world.
Nonetheless, plans for a Danville gambling venue are stunning.
Still, it’s a long way from rhetoric to reality, and plans call for a multi-year implementation schedule.
Casino gambling was sold to Illinois way back in the days of former Gov. Jim Thompson as a tourist industry that would draw visitors to the state. For the most part, it hasn’t worked out that way.
Illinois’ casinos draw most of their customers from surrounding communities, attracting dollars that would have been spent locally in other ways. At the same time, new forms of gambling — particularly video gambling, available on virtually every street corner — have cannibalized the customer base.
In doing so, it’s raised the question of just how big a market there is for gambling in all its many forms in Illinois — casinos, the lottery, video gambling, horse racing and sports betting. That array of options, unfortunately, does not include what’s available in neighboring states.
Given those competitive circumstances, it’s clear that Haven has decided it would make a huge investment aimed at attracting as wide an audience in Illinois and Indiana as possible.
The company is planning what certainly will be multi-multi-million-dollar project on a 42-acre site along Interstate 74 southeast of Danville. It’s identified a target market of 19 counties in Indiana and Illinois that runs from Bloomington-Normal to Indianapolis and includes more than 2 million people.
If that isn’t enough, developers say they will buy a nearby 30-acre site for “future” projects that complement the casino complex.
The company seems to be saying, “If we build it, they will come.”
Well, perhaps they will. But other companies have tried similar ventures, particularly in New York, and been disappointed with the results. That’s why it’s important not to get too carried away with what essentially are promises.
Illinois’ experiment with gambling and its purported entertainment and revenue projection is in its third decade. What’s most striking about that is that promoters have promised many more benefits than they have delivered.
Will that be the case here? There’s no reason to believe Haven’s representatives are not operating in good faith. But if its project seems too good to be true, it might be time for the community to temper its expectations and wait to see what happens.