Southern Illinois, Elite-backed casino breaks ground with Gov. Pritzker; to open H1 2023

The new Walker’s Bluff Casino and Resort in southern Illinois broke ground last Wednesday. Casino officials were joined for the ceremony by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state leaders.

The new $147 million casino resort investment is set to feature a 116-room hotel, a gaming floor with 650 slot machines and 20 live table games, an events center and multiple restaurants, among other amenities. The casino is set to open in the first half of 2023. Walker’s Bluff Winery co-owners partnered with Elite Casino and Resorts for the project: Elite will have a majority stake, while Dave and Cynde Bunch will have a minority stake.

“I was proud to work with the General Assembly to expand gaming and bring jobs and economic opportunity to Southern Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker, who approved land-based casinos in Illinois. “Walker’s Bluff was already a popular attraction, bringing in tourists and business meetings from across the region. Now with the addition of hundreds of slot machines and game tables, and an on-site hotel, this expansion will bring in even more visitors to take advantage of the beauty and hospitality of Southern Illinois.”

Walker’s Bluff has served as an entertainment and tourist destination for southern Illinois since 2008, reports KFVS. The gaming expansion is set to create 1,100 construction jobs and 330 permanent roles once the resort is operational. In order for this to happen, the Illinois Gaming Board approved the casino’s license on June 9.

The expansion is expected to bring in millions of dollars in state revenues, which will be used to fund projects in communities across the state. Moreover, at least 80% of the construction jobs for the project will be filled by southern Illinois residents.

“I’m excited, not only about the project that’s going to be built, but also about the communities involved in it,” Governor Pritzker added. “So I’m very, very grateful for all of that.”

Senator Dale Fowler, who sponsored and pushed the bipartisan legislation through the Illinois legislature, agreed on the potential of the new casino, stating the region had been left behind “for many years” despite a “phenomenal” geographic location.

Governor Pritzker attends the groundbreaking of the new Walker’s Bluff Resort and gaming expansion in Southern Illinois.

— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) December 8, 2021

“Obviously, we’ve had our struggles, we’ve had our difficult times, but we’ve never given up,” he said, according to the previously cited news source. “And the revenue that’s going to be coming back into our local economy to support even more jobs, the ancillary job creation. Our schools will prosper, our not-for-profit, everyone will prosper from this development.”

More than 100 guests gathered for the groundbreaking. Once developed, the casino resort will also feature a full-service salon and spa, and multiple food outlets, including the Draft Day with ELITE Sportsbook, and Ruthie’s Steak & Seafood restaurant. The casino will look for local vendors and suppliers “whenever possible.”