11/17/2008 1:00AM

Hawthorne bid for casino fails


Hawthorne Race Course's bid to acquire an open Illinois casino license has been rejected by the Illinois Gaming Board, which named three other bidders as finalists for the license after a special meeting last Friday.

Hawthorne, which partnered with two gaming developers in its bid for the casino, was one of four groups that failed to be named finalists. Criteria beyond the raw bid amount were said to be significant, but two finalists - developers in the Chicago-area cities of Rosemont, Waukegan, and Des Plaines - submitted the two highest bids. Rosemont bid $435 million, while Waukegan bid $225 million. The Des Plaines group bid $100 million, less than the $150 million offered by the Hawthorne group.

Illinois law allows the issuance of 10 casino licenses, but for more than 10 years, only nine have been active.

Illinois racing, however, still is in line to receive a windfall whenever a new casino opens. A 1999 law mandated that racing interests receive 15 percent of gross revenue from the 10th casino, money that the state's racing industry has yet to see.

But now, there may be a backlash against racing's cut of the casino revenue. The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that at least one state senator, James Meeks, is openly questioning whether the money marked for racing might better be used in a different area, such as education.