Walker's Bluff casino project is finally underway - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Walker's Bluff casino project is finally underway

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CARTERVILLE (WSIL) -- Governor J.B. Pritzker stood by local lawmakers at Walker's Bluff on Tuesday touting his capital infrastructure plan and announcing a major economic growth opportunity. 

After nearly a decade of pushing for gaming, Walker's Bluff will be adding a casino to their list of attractions. Walker's Bluff is one of six places in the state of Illinois granted a new casino license. These licenses are part of a $45 billion capital infrastructure plan known as Rebuild Illinois. 

Pritzker said the licenses will make Illinois a better place for public safety, jobs and for business, "We are creating jobs in southern Illinois. We've authorized a casino license for Walker's Bluff Resort expansion."

During his time at Walker's Bluff, Pritzker mentioned his promises and stops in southern Illinois while campaigning, "When I ran for governor, I came to Carterville, Carbondale, Marion, and Murphysboro and I told you that we would revitalize this region and we are doing it."

The expansion is estimated to bring in nearly $470 million a year in state revenue when it is fully implemented.

Pritzker told Illinoisans during Wednesday's press conference they should be proud of the Democrats and Republicans that came together this session to pass the largest, most robust capital plan in the state's history. 

Lieutenant Gov. Juliana Stratton said these type of opportunities help join communities together, "I'm so proud that the revenue generated will deliver results by investing in transportation, state facilities, education and our environment."

Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said this casino expansion is far more than a gaming bill, he says it creates a destination in southern Illinois. 

"No one is going to be left out," Fowler said. "Everyone is going to benefit in some sort of fashion. We are not just creating opportunity for people that live here, but for generations to come."

Owner and Chief Operating Officer of Walker's Bluff, Cynde Bunch, said she and her husband, David, started the casino project eight years ago. 

"What we found is when people are booking big conferences and conventions, they want gaming," Bunch said. 

Since Pritzker signed the sports betting and gaming bill into law, Walker's Bluff has 120 days to submit the gaming license. 

Besides building a casino, Bunch said they are going to privately invest $300 million into the Resort at Walker's Bluff. Within the plans for that resort are an indoor/outdoor water park, convention center, new restaurants, two hotels, and a spa facility. 

Bunch said they plan to start building the casino and convention center first with hopes to open them in January 2021. The water park and hotels will take an additional two years to be built.

The resort is expected to bring more than 700 jobs to southern Illinois, generate $15 million in state and local revenue and more than 1,200 construction jobs. 

Bunch said she knows these additions to Walker's Bluff will create more traffic which means there needs to be better roads to get to the vineyard. 

Currently the Illinois Department of Transportation released their solution to the problem by continuing Herrin Road to Reed station Road, running straight through Walker's Bluff campus. 

There is no word on when the construction could start. 

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