3 finalists for Illinois gaming license

Nov 18, 2008 5:08 PM

by Ray Poirier| Just as Terry Lanni plans to retire from the gaming arena, his former co-MGM executive, Alex Yemenidjian is looking to get back into the fray.

Yemenidjian’s Trilliant Gaming Illinois LLC is one of three finalists for the 10th (and last) gaming license to be awarded in Illinois.

Actually, the license was awarded several years ago to a group in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. But, while the city was working on the casino’s infrastructure, the state attorney general filed suit against the implementation of the license because its owner, Emerald Casino Inc., was alleged to have ties to the underworld.

After years of litigation, the license was pulled and with help from the legislature was made available for bidding.

At least a half-dozen groups filed bids, including the Carey Family, owners and operators of Hawthorne racetrack. But, their bid fell by the wayside, as did two others.

In addition to Yemenidjian’s group, which offered $435 million for the license to be located at Rosemont, the final cut included the Waukegan location, a site that was selected by Charles "C-3" Bidwill, III, and his associates, and Des Plaines, whose location was chosen by Chicago developer Neil Bluhm.

Bluhm was recently approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Board for the slots license awarded for the City of Pittsburgh and originally held by Fitzgerald Hotel/Casino owner Don Barden.

Bidwill’s family owned Sportsman’s Park racetrack which went bust a couple of years ago. He also was one of the owners of the highly-successful riverboat casino, Casino Queen, in East St. Louis, Illinois, a property that once included Las Vegas gaming impresario Michael Gaughan as an investor.

Bidwill’s group bid $225 million while Bluhm’s group offered $100 million.

Gaming regulators indicated that more than money will be considered when choosing the successful applicant.

Yemenidjian’s group chose Rosemont because of the work the city had accomplished before Emerald Casino lost the license. It benefits not only from its proximity to the City of Chicago but also from the zoning and other considerations previously acted upon by city officials.

Still, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan continues to raise questions about the gaming board’s decision to consider Rosemont in light of previous allegations.

The three finalists will make one-hour long pitches before the regulators on Nov. 25. Officials believe they then will be given the opportunity to sweeten their offers.

In December, the gaming board will hold a hearing at which the public will be given the opportunity to express its opinions.

Yemenidjian worked closely with Lanni at MGM Grand before moving to Hollywood to become head of MGM Studios, then owned by Kirk Kerkorian.