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Matteson unveils casino plans

10/7/2020, noon
Village of Matteson President Sheila Chalmers-Currin was recently joined by Rob Miller, a representative of the Choctaw Nation; Alicia Starks, ...
Village of Matteson President Sheila Chalmers-Currin was joined by Rob Miller, a representative of the Choctaw Nation; Alicia Starks, of Inner City Entertainment; and Jay Beck and Robert Pooler, of Precision Golf Dome, for a presentation of the projects for a casino proposal which, if approved by the Illinois Gaming Board, would include an entertainment space, bowling alley and food hall.
 Matteson unveils casino plans

BY TIA CAROL JONES

     Village of Matteson President Sheila Chalmers-Currin was recently joined by Rob Miller, a representative of the Choctaw Nation; Alicia Starks, of Inner City Entertainment; and Jay Beck and Robert Pooler, of Precision Golf Dome, for a presentation of projects for a casino proposal, which would be located at the former site of Lincoln Mall, if approved by the Illinois Gaming Board. Chalmers-Currin is confident the proposed casino, backed by the Choctaw Nation, will be approved by the board.

     An entertainment space, bowling alley and food hall are a part of the plan for the casino and the proposal includes Black-owned Precision Golf Suites; a family entertainment center, run by Alicia Starks; and food hall developments in addition to the casino. Jimmy Akintonde, president of Ujamaa Construction, will be the general contractors for the project.
Miller said after a long process of evaluating sites for the casino, the Choctaw Nation decided that Matteson would be the perfect location. “As casino developers, from an economic standpoint, we’re always looking for three things on any major real estate development: location, location, location,” he said. For casino developers, that means demographics, population and proximity to the casino’s location and “the fewest competitors [as] possible,” he added.

     Miller said Matteson is “a community with a dynamic leader, with a great pro-development focus and you can see that in some of the things the president has accomplished here. That’s also really important, you need a community that’s your partner,” he added.

     Miller said the development of a casino, especially in Illinois, is a means to an end. He said it translates into economic development, tax revenue, jobs and opportunities in communities that need them.

     Jay Beck, CEO of Precision Golf Dome, said the goal was to create a family-fun facility and to bring the concept to the South Suburbs.
“We chose the Village of Matteson as a great community to put it in,” he said. “This is the area that we love. This is the area that we feel we’re able to grow [in] as a community.”

     Starks, of Inner City Entertainment, said the proposal is for a dine-in cinema, restaurant and bowling alley and added Inner City has a history of hiring from within the community. “We’re committed to hiring locally, African American. We also have a history of using Black suppliers,” Starks said.
Akintonde said, “We like to engage local schools [and] local high schools. We like to engage the local community. We like to engage [the] Chamber of Commerce. I like to look for growing businesses and small businesses because I’m still one. I understand the struggle of small businesses,” he said. “It’s about making sure the community is being represented.”

     Janie Dillard, senior executive director of Choctaw Nation, said what made them decide Matteson would be a good place for the casino included the village having a strong demographic for a casino, with 1.3 million people and no casino competition in a 30-minute drive-time ring around the site.

     “The community strongly supports the casino and is led by a dynamic village president, with a focus on addressing regional needs with casino tax revenue,” she said.

     Dillard said while the Choctaw Nation continues to grow its core markets, which serve Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, it is always on the lookout for opportunities to expand its business.

     Dillard said the Choctaw Nation wants to win the gaming license. “We have confidence that our proposal provides the best potential for gaming taxes, jobs, and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) among the competitors,” she said.

     The Illinois Gaming Board has until Oct. 28 to make a decision. Dillard said she is hopeful the schedule will be sustained. She said the Illinois Gaming Board has done a very thorough job of evaluating the Choctaw Nation and the Village of Matteson’s application.

    When asked about consideration for other Illinois casinos, Dillard said the Tribe is always open to new opportunities and added, “Today, we’re focused on Matteson, but our experience in Illinois has been really positive so far.”