Illinois Strip Malls Could House Casinos

Strip malls in Crestwood and Hometown, Illinois could become "gambling malls" with mini-casinos located in the storefronts. Developer David Miltenberger of Lucky Duck Entertainment LLC of St. Louis is working on the concept, which could generate $200,000 in annual revenue, said Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta (l.).

David Miltenberger, chief executive of St. Louis-based Lucky Duck Entertainment LLC, is hoping to develop so-called “casino malls” in Crestwood and Hometown, Illinois. Miltenberger, who last year filed for personal bankruptcy last year, explained the concept features leasing storefronts to multiple gambling cafes, with up to five video machines in each, within a single strip mall, creating added opportunities to generate more foot traffic and allow more patrons to gamble.

Both Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta and Hometown Mayor Kevin Casey said they were intrigued by the “casino mall” idea, which would require official approval from the Illinois Gaming Board. “They have already told me they want liquor licenses for each of them because you need that before you can get a gaming license, and I told them they would get their liquor licenses. We got them OK’d. There’s a bingo hall at the end of the plaza and that would stay. So it would be a nice little area with an OTB parlor, the bingo hall and these gambling cafes in a plaza that is really set so far back from the road, behind another shopping area, that it is difficult for tenants to attract customers,” Presta said.

He added the operation could generate “a couple of hundred thousand dollars in new revenue, and we could use it to fund the parks and police pensions. You know, this new governor we got is going to cut state funding, and we’re not going to be getting any money to run our parks from the state, so we have to find new revenues.”

Casey said, “With this concept, you would just walk from one storefront to the next and find a machine. Those places would create 35 to 40 new jobs, and I have been promised that those jobs will go to Hometown residents. This is a town of a square mile in size, and we are landlocked. We don’t have any commercial space available to build on. That shopping plaza is pretty much it, and it was in a very bad state of decay until the new landlord came in and invested about $1 million in the property.”

Casey stated he has no issues with a video gambling mall in his community. He said the developers promised they would hire a full-time, armed security officer to patrol the grounds. “I went to Stella’s in Oak Lawn,” he said, referring to Stella’s Place gambling cafe, “and all the people gambling there were from Hometown. These places are popping up all over. They have like 40 places with something like 170 slot machines in Oak Lawn.”

Casey expressed dismay that Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury is worried about the gambling malls idea, since her suburb receives more than $400,000 annually from video gambling. Bury recently said the original concept of video gaming has gotten out of control and she wants the state legislature to revisit the issue.