Potential Casino Site

Danville officials selected this 40-acre cornfield on the south side of Interstate 74 near the Lynch Road exit as the preferred site for a casino because of its proximity to the highway and Indiana line and its ‘shovel ready’ status. Photo by Tracy Crane via The News-Gazette.

Amid a debate over the potential site of a new casino in Danville, Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. announced August 6 that the deadline to submit proposals to develop that casino is being pushed to Aug. 21.

The city council later voted to endorse the new deadline after a long, heated debate that covered a lot of ground, including competing thoughts over its location and the developer-selection process, and even allegations of the “appearance” of impropriety in the process.

Williams said just two development proposals were submitted by last week’s deadline to the local steering committee charged with reviewing them and recommending a finalist to the city council.

He said he’s aware that at least two other groups would still like to submit proposals, which is why he supported the deadline extension.

“Because the more competitors, the better,” Williams said.

Alderman Steve Foster had already proposed a resolution to extend the deadline partly because he supports building the casino downtown and wants to give more time to applicants like former Danville banker Craig Campbell, who is pulling together a plan to do that.

Campbell attended Tuesday’s meeting, where he lobbied for a downtown site during public-comment period and answered questions from some aldermen interested in his idea.

Campbell said his idea is a small-footprint development downtown that would be built upward rather than spreading out.

In July, Williams and local economic development officials announced their preferred site to be a 40-acre, undeveloped, “shovel-ready,” one-owner site along Interstate 74 near the Lynch Road exit. The land is owned by Riverbend Development, according to Vermilion County records.

One of the overriding concerns is the deadline — Oct. 28 — that a council-approved developer has to submit a final proposal to the Illinois Gaming Board to get a casino license.

Because of this, local officials said they prefer a site that can be assembled quickly with all the zoning and other necessary requirements like utilities in place.

Campbell said he needs more time, possibly until early September, to pull together his development proposal, but he assured aldermen that he could make the final state application deadline in October.

Williams said one reason for the last week’s original deadline was to leave ample time for city officials to negotiate with the chosen developer any benefits to the city, including its revenue share.