Ill. lawmakers push to bring casino to Walker’s Bluff Resort

Updated: Jun. 3, 2019 at 2:49 PM CDT
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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - An effort to expand gambling in Illinois could lead to a new casino in the Heartland.

On Tuesday, May 28 Senator Dale Fowler and other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle explained how they hoped to include Walker’s Bluff, a vineyard in southern Illinois, in the gaming bill in the Senate. Fowler said he plans to transform the current resort into a “top-tier destination resort, welcoming hundreds of thousands of guests from around the world.”

Legalized betting was approved by the Senate on Sunday, June 2.

Another hurdle was cleared to bring a casino to southern Illinois.

According to Fowler, Walkers Bluff will receive the gaming license needed to move forward with an on-site casino. The large-scale construction project is expected to generate:

  • 1,250 construction jobs
  • 726 permanent jobs
  • $15 million in local annual revenue
  • $34 million in local employment
  • $42 million in labor income

“This expansion package recognizes the potential of Walkers Bluff and will be a game changer for Southern Illinois,” said Fowler. “Walkers Bluff will be a major tourism destination in the region, bringing in thousands of visitors, creating real opportunities within our communities and generating critical revenue for the district.”

Governor JB Pritzker released the following statement on Saturday, June 1 after the House passage of legislation to legalize sports betting and expand gaming throughout the state of Illinois.

“Legalizing sports betting and expanding gaming will create jobs up and down the state, from Rockford to Chicago to Walker’s Bluff, where communities hungry for employment will see 10,000 new jobs. After the Supreme Court legalized sports betting, I promised the people of Illinois that sports wagering would be a key element of my legislative agenda, so that we are competitive with our neighboring states and can create more revenue for communities around Illinois. Gaming expansions in this state have been attempted and failed for years; this effort succeeded because of talented and dedicated public servants like Leaders Terry Link and Tony Munoz and Representatives Bob Rita and Mike Zalewski. Today is a win for the whole state.”

Plans for the resort include adding a water park, a hotel, a convention center, a casino, more restaurants, a spa and more.

“In southern Illinois, we have so much to offer,” Fowler said. "Some of the most beautiful country in the entire midwest, amazing state parks, the Shawnee National Forrest, the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, just to name a few. The resort at Walker’s Bluff would be an amazing boost to southern Illinois, creating a much needed economic opportunity and job opportunities for southern Illinois citizens and families.

Upon completion, the facility would have the potential to contribute $15 million to local annual revenue, $34 million in local employment, $42 million in labor income, 1,250 construction jobs and 726 permanent jobs.

Fowler sees this as a way to revitalize southern Illinois.

“We need jobs. 70 percent of our students are on free lunch,” Fowler said. “We’re losing citizens to out-migration. We have an opportunity to make this a real game changer for southern Illinois.”

In 2018 leaders from around the region fought to get a gambling bill passed that would allow the casino.

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