Hawthorne Race Course Leads Bid for 10th Casino License in Illinois

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Just seven miles from downtown Chicago, the owner-operator of Hawthorne Race Course is proposing an entertainment destination unlike any in the nation, in its unprecedented bid for Illinois' tenth casino license. Hawthorne's Board of Directors, a 100-year old family business, has partnered with Altium Development Group and Merit Management Group, both leaders in gaming, entertainment and retail development and management to dramatically expand the use of its 136-acre holdings between Cicero and Laramie Avenues to create the premiere regional entertainment destination. The 136-Acre Site will Include Water Park, Hotel, Entertainment Complex, Conference Center and more.

It will be great for Illinois horsemen and Illinois racing fans, and will provide tremendous revenues for the state. Hawthorne and its management have a long and exemplary record in Illinois racing.

Just seven miles from downtown Chicago on I-55 at the gateway to Midway Airport, the owner-operator of Hawthorne Race Course is proposing an entertainment destination unlike any in the nation, in its unprecedented bid for Illinois' tenth casino license. Hawthorne's Board of Directors, a 100-year old family business, has partnered with Altium Development Group and Merit Management Group, both leaders in gaming, entertainment and retail development and management to dramatically expand the use of its 136-acre holdings between Cicero and Laramie Avenues to create the premiere regional entertainment destination. The location is a ready-made setting for the proposed casino, resort and entertainment district, that could phase in casino operations within 180 days, generating nearly $200,000,0000 in immediate tax revenue. Additionally, the location would serve as a vital stop-gap to hundreds of millions of consumer gaming dollars spent in Hammond, Indiana, while directly servicing the highest density market in the state.

"Location, location, location" says Tim Carey, Hawthorne Race Course president and representative of the development partners. "The statute requires that the license benefit an economically depressed area while maximizing revenue for the state. Not only is the Village of Stickney and the surrounding area in desperate need of this type of economic impact, but we have the real estate and an existing facility to quickly develop an entire entertainment and retail park. We can be the first to market. And we can do so at the doorstep to Chicago without cannibalizing Illinois' existing casinos."

Named CHAMPIONS Casino & Resort, the proposed development will be an entertainment destination that showcases the renowned heritage and nostalgia of Chicago sports but with the comfortable luxury and complete amenity of modern entertainment facilities. Several high profile Chicago sports icons have joined discussions to support the development, most notably Coach Mike Ditka who will develop a restaurant and/or hotel on the property.

Physical development plans include:

  •     40,000 sq. ft casino
  •     1,150 slot positions
  •     50 table games and poker room
  •     300-room casino hotel, and conference center
  •     140,000 sq. ft entertainment district
  •     8-12 restaurants
  •     8 movie theaters
  •     25,000 sq. ft. bowling lounge
  •     150,000 sq. ft. water park resort with 400 all-inclusive suites
  •     4,800 seat outdoor subterranean amphitheater

Hawthorne anticipates as many as eight other applicants for the tenth license, but has been silently winning-over south suburban municipalities to support its bid. "Hammond, Indiana is the largest regional draw for gaming entertainment," says Joseph Canfora, CEO of Merit Management Group, formerly president of Empress and Horseshoe Casinos. "Over $720,000,000 is spent out of state every year for lack of a competitive casino alternative to service the south side of the Chicagoland area. The solution is not another casino close to the Indiana border, it's a casino closest to the market that spends this money. The Hawthorne development will not only serve as the most complete stop-gap for that lost tax revenue, but its sheer scope will create thousands of new jobs in Illinois--more than any other proposed site."

Current projections for job creation--many designated for union positions--within the casino are over 1,200 positions, with an additional 2,000 jobs per the water park and retail development. Because of CHAMPIONS ability to open within six months, it is estimated that 500 jobs will be created in 2009.

However, Hawthorne, Merit, Altium and their investment partners, are covering their bets so to speak by including top-line development of non-gaming entertainment. "The way that this venue succeeds is as an entertainment destination for the whole family. It will be a part of the Chicago community with specific appeals to the downtown and south suburb markets," adds Ed Pilarz, president of Altium. "But perhaps most importantly we have a 400,000 sq. ft. facility ready to go that will serve as catalyst for economic development along Cicero Avenue's Midway Airport Corridor. No other applicant for the 10th license can provide this, which means no other applicant can benefit the state as much as this development can, both in terms of tax revenue and jobs created to staff a bigger and more varied regional entertainment destination."

Though other applicants have proposed entertainment complex concepts, CHAMPIONS would be the first casino venue in the nation to additionally showcase live racing. "Hawthorne's proposal will have dramatic benefits for both the racing and casino industries," says Joseph Sinopoli, chairman of the Illinois Racing Board. "It will be great for Illinois horsemen and Illinois racing fans, and will provide tremendous revenues for the state. Hawthorne and its management have a long and exemplary record in Illinois racing."

"There are over 40,000 people employed by the agribusiness of Illinois horseracing," explains Carey. "This development would be a vital benefit to Illinois racing, and would certainly return Illinois to national prominence in racing. CHAMPIONS will be a complete sports and gaming entertainment destination like no other in the country. Not even Vegas has live racing alongside table and slots entertainment. Hawthorne Race Course is the oldest sports venue in the state, and our family has been a part of the grand tradition of Chicago sports for 100 years. This development would ensure the vitality of horseracing by exposing it to hundreds of thousands of new fans, and it would help ensure Chicago's national renown for the next 100 years."

THE ESTATE OF THOMAS CAREY
The Estate of Thomas Carey has owned and operated Hawthorne Race Course for 100 years, distinguishing it as the oldest continuously family-owned and operated race track in the nation. As the oldest sports venue in Illinois, Hawthorne Race Course has been an integral player in the legendary heritage of Chicago sports entertainment. The Estate of Thomas Carey is the unencumbered landowner of the 136-acre property on which Hawthorne Race Course exists, and on which Hawthorne Race Course, Inc. and Suburban Downs, Inc. operate as horseracing licensees in Illinois.

ALTIUM DEVELOPMENT GROUP
Altium Development Group is a real estate investment and development firm that focuses on the gaming industry and specifically gaming related real estate. Altium's partners and clients are gaming and casino companies. Its major business activities involving acquiring, developing, and managing gaming related real estate (casinos) and the ancillary non-gaming real estate uses (hotels, retail, entertainment) required to support the gaming business and operations.

MERIT MANAGEMENT GROUP
Merit Management Group specializes in the development, financing and operation of hotel-casino properties across the United States and internationally, with particular emphasis on Native American gaming. Merit's key management has over 20 years of experience in the casino and racing industries with expertise in property development, management, operations, high level financial transactions, strategic marketing and gaming strategy and analysis.

The proposed, 136-acre entertainment destination at 35th Street, Cicero and Laramie Avenues is just off the Stevenson Expressway at the gateway to Midway Airport. For more information, visit http://www.ChampionsCasinoResort.com.

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Kate Hughes
Noreen Heron & Associates, Inc.
773-477-7666
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