Trilliant Gaming Incorporated offered Illinois 5 million last month to use the stateÆs last available gaming license for a casino in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont. The offer was nearly twice as much as the next highest of six made by bidders teamed with host communities.
Los Angeles-based Trilliant is headed by former MGM Mirage President Alex Yemenidjian. He is in a joint venture with Onex Corporation, a Canadian private-equity firm headquartered in Toronto.
TrilliantÆs offer surprised observers who expected the dormant Emerald Gaming license to fetch little more than $300 million at most because of current market and credit conditions. Those conditions may have been reflected in the other bids, which ranged from $225 million down to $60 million.
In an aborted 2004 auction, Isle of Capri Casinos put up $518 million for the 10th Illinois casino license. Isle also planned to build in Rosemont, seen as a lucrative location because itÆs between downtown Chicago and the cityÆs busy airport, OÆHare International.
Last weekÆs applications launch a selection process the Illinois Gaming Board expects to finish by yearÆs end. After public presentations from all contenders, the board will choose three finalists by considering points such as incentives for host communities, minority employment plans, even cannibalization of nine existing Illinois casinosÆ revenue.
Other communities vying for the license are all close-in Chicago suburbs except for Waukegan near the Wisconsin border north of the city. Their offers and partners:
• Waukegan: $225 million bid by Waukegan Gaming LLC. Principals: SL BDK Waukegan LLC (Richard Stein, Alan Ludwig, Charles Bidwell, Edward Duffy, Jeffrey Krol); Clairvest Group Inc. Gaming Investment Fund LLC; Michael Pizzuto.
• Harvey: $175 million bid by South Side Casino LLC. Principals: Empire Resorts CEO David Handlon, James Griffin, Salish Gabhawala, William Krug, Jonathan Harris, John Argianis, William Tsourapas.
• Stickney: location of the Hawthorne Racetrack, $150 million bid by Hawthorne Gaming LLC. Principals: Joe Canfora, who was once an investor in two Empress casinos in Illinois; Estate of Thomas Carey, whose family owns the track.
• Calumet City: $150 million bid by Calumet Gaming LLC. Principals: Joe Canfora, Gary Grasso.
• Des Plaines: $100 million bid by Midwest Gaming & Entertainment LLC. Principals: High Plains Gaming, Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm, Andrew Bluhm, Leslie Bluhm, Meredith Bluhm-Wolf, Greg Carlin, four Bluhm family trusts.
• Country Club Hills: $60 million bid by CCH Gaming Partners LLC. Principals: Lafayette Gatling, Marguerite Gatling and developers Michael Reschke, Steven Craig.
At least one expected bid did not come in, largely because of the economy. Hyatt Gaming Management considered teaming with Summit, largely to fend off a possible Rosemont or Des Plaines winner near HyattÆs Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. At nearly the last minute, however, a key investor said market conditions made any financing deal impossible by the application deadline.
“The times are too hard,” Summit Mayor Joseph Strzelczyk said later. “ItÆs obviously a shattered economy.”