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Community members rally in Springfield to build resort, casino - WPSD Local 6: Your news, weather, a

Time:2016-11-16 12:43wine - Red wine life health Click:

Springfield southern Illinois casino Williamson County Marion

Community members from southern Illinois met with lawmakers in Springfield Tuesday about their hopes of building a casino and resort in Williamson County. People traveling to the state capitol say they believe building the resort will provide a needed boost to the community’s economy.

Community and business leaders filled buses Tuesday, preparing to spend a long day on the road so they could spend just a few hours in Springfield explaining plans for the Resort at Walker’s Bluff.

Visit SI CEO Shannon Johnson says she's passionate about it because, working in tourism, she sees the impact the project could have in southern Illinois. And others are recognizing it, too.

"To see all of these people come out that may not even live here in the Marion-Williamson County area is phenomenal," Johnson said. She and 60 others will spend the day on the bus driving to Springfield and back to lobby lawmakers to build the resort here.

"We'll be passing out booklets, so people can have more information on what the resort is and all the jobs it would provide to southern Illinois," said Ellen Cook with Walker’s Bluff. Representatives with the popular vineyard and winery say they’re not asking for funding, but for lawmakers to amend the gaming bill and give them a license for the casino they plan to build.

Once it’s built, the resort would also feature two hotels, a spa, a water park and a convention center. Johnson said the community could benefit from having a convention center here because they lose business now without it.

"Tourism is an economic engine. It drives so much money into our economy, and this is one aspect that we lose money on," she said. “We turn away business groups, corporate small business groups. And this is just going to be a phenomenal asset to our area.”

She and others say they believe the resort will help boost tourism and the economy, while giving families a fun place to stay.

The buses are expected to return to Marion around 7 p.m. Tuesday.

If built, the resort is estimated to create more than 2,000 jobs and bring in $15 million annually.

Right now, there are two casinos roughly 60 miles from where the new one could be built –including Harrah’s in Metropolis.

Harrah’s brings in more than $4 million to the community each year, according to reports from the Illinois Gaming Board.  The mayor of Metropolis says having competition from Walker’s Bluff isn’t a big concern for them right now. But, he said, if a new gaming license is granted, it would likely take away some of their gamblers, and with it, a big hit to their tax revenues.

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