Hard hats and shiny shovels were used Wednesday, by, from left, Secretary of Transportation Omer Osman, State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg), State Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza, J Dave Bunch, Cynde Bunch, Gov. JB Pritzker, CEO of Elite Casino Resorts Dan Kehl and executive director of Golf and board member Elite Casino Resorts Bobby Kehl to turn the first dirt on Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort in Carterville.

CARTERVILLE — Gov. Pritzker and State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) joined Walker’s Bluff Winery owner Cynde Bunch and Elite Casino Resorts CEO Dan Kehl on Wednesday, Dec. 8, in a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction on a new $147 million casino resort investment, Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort, located near the Walker’s Bluff Winery in Carterville.

Made possible after the Illinois Gaming Board’s June 9 determination that Walker’s Bluff is preliminarily suitable for licensure, the new resort is slated to include a 116-room hotel along with a gaming floor, event center and multiple restaurants, among other attractions.

“I was proud to work with the General Assembly to expand gaming and bring jobs and economic opportunity to southern Illinois,” Pritzker said. “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. That also means more opportunity for working families across the region — creating 1100 construction jobs and 330 permanent roles at the resort.”

Bunch noted that more than 80% of those construction jobs will be filled by southern Illinois residents, and the casino will look for local vendors and suppliers whenever possible.

“It’s just good business sense to buy local,” she said.

Walker’s Bluff opened in 2008 as an entertainment and tourist destination for southern Illinois.

Bunch has been advocating for this economic boost for nearly a decade.

“It’s been an effort this community has embraced. We are so excited to get started,” she said.

Construction is expected to take 14 months with a grand opening planned for early 2023.

“A development of this size in southern Illinois will certainly have a positive impact on surrounding communities and foster further economic development,” said Carbondale Mayor John “Mike” Henry. “I appreciate Cynde and David Bunch’s contributions to the region and am very glad to see this significant project move a step closer to completion.”

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