by Melanie Jongsma
HOMEWOOD, Ill. (October 11, 2019) – By 6:30pm on Monday, October 7, the meeting room at the Marie Irwin Center was packed with an estimated 200 people, including camera crews from WGN and NBC in addition to local media. Representatives from the Wind Creek Casino development spent 30 minutes introducing their company and describing their proposed Homewood project, and then 90 minutes answering questions.
Brent Pinkston, Chief Operating Officer for Wind Creek Hospitality, described the project as a four-diamond property, which is a classification awarded by AAA. “Only 5% of hotels in the United States get that classification,” said Pinkston. The project is a $450 million investment over four years. Phase 1 will include the casino and most of the food and beverage outlets; Phase 2 will follow with the hotel. Wind Creek estimates the project will provide over 700 construction jobs, and over 800 jobs once the facility opens. “We are confident that we can bring you a product you’ll be proud of,” said Pinkston.
During Public Comment following the presentation, questions covered a wide range of concerns, and the crowd seemed evenly divided in terms of support for the proposal and opposition to it. In addition to concerns about the project itself, distrust was also expressed about the Homewood Board’s handling of the proposal.
Questions and concerns are grouped in categories below. Answers to each question are not detailed, but video of the meeting is already publicly available:
- Homewood Public Hearing and Board meeting (October 7, 2019)
About Wind Creek and their other casino properties
- Are [your other] facilities in neighborhoods or in industrial areas?
- You are concentrated mainly in the south. Why are you suddenly interested in Illinois, and why Homewood?
- Are you working with actual Native Americans?
- How much do you give to the University of Alabama?
- The promise of jobs is attractive, but where is the money coming from?
- Lack of adequate transportation is a factor in unemployment rates. This will bring jobs directly to our area that local people are able get to.
- Will the jobs go to local people?
- Will consideration be given to minorities?
- Will you use union workers?
- Will you employ local high school students or offer internships?
- How many of the projected jobs will be full-time?
- Is there a minimum salary for casino workers?
About projected revenues
- The projected revenues do not make sense for this market size.
- With so many other casino and entertainment venues in the area, isn’t this market over-saturated?
- Younger people don’t seem to go to casinos, and there are plenty of music venues in the area, so is this really a sustainable business?
- How much money will go to education?
- If a casino is such a boon to a community, why aren’t communities like Wilmette or Evanston applying for a casino opportunity?
About casinos and the Homewood “brand”
- Is Homewood going to become just another casino town?
- Would Homewood begin advertising this casino in our current marketing campaign?
- What will this really do for Homewood?
- Does a casino really represent Homewood’s family-friendly values?
- What will this do for existing businesses in downtown Homewood?
About potential costs
- You probably have some numbers that show how much crime increases when you put a casino in. Casinos in northwest Indiana have not really improved those communities at all—what will be the expense we need to add to our police department?
- What about offsite crimes—can our current police and fire departments handle the increased traffic, visitors, and activities?
- Why are we ok with preying on elderly and the poor in our own town and in the surrounding area?
- What will this do to property and home values?
- What are the specific traffic projections?
- Can that intersection and our infrastructure handle that increase in traffic?
- Have you considered the infrastructure costs?
- What happens when the casino closes?
- Will this cannibalize other small businesses in the area?
- What do we need to do to be ready for this?
- What will be done to minimize noise from the new business in the surrounding residential neighborhoods?
- Did anyone consider the crime and traffic impact on the surrounding region—South Holland, Markham, Harvey, Phoenix, Dixmoor, Matteson?
About the specific project
- Can you describe or give examples of five-diamond properties in the area?
- What are the guarantees that you will continue the project after Phase 1?
- Is the Wind Creek organization viable?
- Are there any local investors? Have they been publicly revealed?
- What kind of systems do you have in place to protect people for whom this will re-trigger an existing addition?
- How quickly can you sell an ownership interest in the gambling license you receive?
- Is there any connection between this project and the Calumet Country Club?
- Are there articles and research available for interested residents to review?
- Who came up with the list of schools and healthcare facilities that will receive funds from this project?
- Does the proposed plan include any green solutions or sustainability programs to deal with consumables and the waste generated by a project like this? Will it be LEED certified?
- Who is the current owner of the property?
- Have you considered including a shuttle service to get people to the casino?
- What is the timeline?
About the Board’s process
- Can we postpone the vote on this until you’ve had time to consider our objections?
- Is there a downside that the Trustees have looked at?
- What research did you use to find out how this would affect our community?
- Did the Board consider establishing a ban of political contributions, including local political contributions, toward this project?
- Are there any restrictions on Village employees or Board members working for the casino later?
- I feel like our Board is doing what they feel is best for Homewood.
- Could we see the same information the Board saw in order to arrive at their decision?
- Why is this a Board vote and not put out for a referendum?
- Trustee Zeldenrust asks Board to consider effects of gambling on community (October 6 article)
- Wind Creek casino plan includes hotel, entertainment center (October 3 Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle article)
- Residents divided as Homewood takes another step toward casino (October 8 Homewood Flossmoor Chronicle article)