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Alex Yemenidjian is baaack with Illinois casino move

Oct 21, 2008 5:08 PM

by Ray Poirier | Gaming veterans in Las Vegas knew all along that it was only a matter of time before the name Alex Yemenidjian became, once again, a major player in the industry.

Yemenidjian, a close associate of Kirk Kerkorian for many years, worked with Terry Lanni to help grow MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) into the gaming behemoth that it has become.

When Kerkorian returned to Los Angeles as the owner for the second (or third) time of the MGM’s movie company, he tapped Yemenidjian to run the operation for him. Then, when he again sold his interests in the movie company, it was expected that Yemenidjian would turn to Las Vegas or possibly in another area to utilize his expertise in the gaming business.

Last week, his Trilliant Gaming Illinois company bid $435 million for the 10th and final gaming license in Illinois. The license was formerly owned by the City of Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago. But the license holder was felt by the attorney general’s office to have strong ties to underworld characters and after much litigation was voided and made available to a successful bidder.

But, Trilliant’s bid, although almost twice as large as the nearest competitor, may yet not win the license.

Illinois Gaming Board members have said the amount of the bid will not be the only factor in deciding who gets the license. Other considerations include how much each casino could affect the nine casinos already open in Illinois, how quickly the proposed casino could open and the bidders’ experiences and background.

The bidding procedure requires that three finalists among the seven bidders be chosen before the final selection is made.

The underbidder to Trilliant was Waukegan Gaming, whose stakeholders include Chicago developer Richard Stein. That group’s plan is to transform Lakehurst Mall in Waukegan into a casino. Their bid was $225 million.

Other bidders included the Carey family, owners of Hawthorne racetrack.

Trilliant reportedly has bought up the property in Rosemont where the former license holder had already begun constructing the gaming facility when the license was pulled.