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State Hopes To Hit Jackpot With Des Plaines Casino

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Rivers Casino

Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opens Monday. (Credit: CBS)

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DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) — The State of Illinois is hoping to hit the jackpot with the area’s newest casino in Des Plaines.

The Rivers Casino opened today at the northwest corner of River Road and Devon Avenue in the near northwest suburb.

Before the 11 a.m. opening, the parking lots were already filled and long lines formed outside the entrance. River Road was filled with traffic, Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports.

Waiting for an hour and a half just to get in, retiree Bill Clinge says Illinois’ problem isn’t too many casino but too few.

Clinge lives in far north suburban Wadsworth, and he says Illinois residents drive over the border in droves to gamble in Wisconsin.

“You see busloads of Illinois people .. hundreds of thousands of dollars going to Wisconsin,” he said.

The casino held VIP events over the weekend to showcase the 44,000 square-foot gaming mecca before the grand opening Monday.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

The casino is expected to generate between $325 million and $400 million per year in revenue.

In addition, about 1,200 people were hired for full- and part-time casino jobs at the Des Plaines casino, with an average, starting, non-tip wage of $12 an hour.

But as WBBM Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports, the gaming license the casino holds is not without its baggage.

It holds the state’s 10th casino license, a document that has been the subject of court challenges, cross-state moves and even allegations of mob ties.

In 1999, the state’s Gaming Board decided to award the notorious Emerald Casino a license in Rosemont six years earlier, over objections that some investors had ties to organized crime.

A revocation hearing dragged out for years afterward, but ultimately, Emerald Casino’s license was revoked by a new Gaming Board. The casino was never built.

But now, state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), one of the biggest gambling proponents in the Illinois General Assembly, emphasizes that the jobs provided by the Des Plaines facility that now holds Emerald’s old license will boost the area.

“There are managers, there are owners, there are people on the lower end of the pay scale,” Lang said. “I assure you that the several hundred people who were standing in line at the job fair all wanted whatever job they could get at that casino, and they’re all very happy to have one.”

But gambling opponents say with casinos come addiction and crime, and the state frequently exaggerates their economic benefits.

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