North and south of Illinois’ big-city economic engine, many developers are fighting to claim gambling dens in coveted suburban markets. And all the while, a small-town vineyard owner 300 miles south of Chicago quietly has been powering forward with her long-held vision for a new Downstate casino. That leaves Chicago as the only municipality without a viable casino proposal among the six that were awarded new casino licenses under the gambling expansion that’s supposed to help fund Gov. Tucked into one sentence of the state’s massive gambling expansion law is a new casino license for the “unincorporated area of Williamson County adjacent to the Big Muddy River” – a narrow stretch of land already home to the winery Walker’s Bluff.
Walker’s Bluff was one of the dafar situs poker first stops Pritzker made in July as he toured the state touting his capital plan, saying it would have “a generational impact” on the future of southern Illinois. Besides the happy couples, Walker’s Bluff also welcomed heavy metal legend, Ozzy Osborne to its outdoor stage in 2017, when thousands of campers staked ground on the estate for its four-day “Moonstock” festival to celebrate the total solar eclipse that dazzled the area. That very specific legislative language resulted from years of lobbying in Springfield by Walker’s Bluff co-owner and CEO Cynde Bunch, whose family had lived on its 277 rolling acres for more than a century before she and husband David Bunch turned it into an upscale event space.
Other towns boast of quick access off major highways in their casino bids. Still, Williamson County officials say they’re confident gamblers will make the 25-minute trip from the Interstate 57 exit to the back-country charm of Walker’s Bluff. About 17 miles east of Southern Illinois University, Marion is situated in the center of Williamson County, with miles of farmland and winding two-lane highways separating the county seat from the modest antebellum homes of neighboring towns where residents can be counted in the hundreds or even dozens. The min deposit amount can vary depending on the payment method used but usually starts at around AUD 10. So how will I deposit the money to play the game? “This is very much a case of ‘If you build it, they will come,’ ” Dunleavy said.