Most Developers Back Downtown Location for Chicago’s New Mega-Casino Project

Earlier this year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office addressed casino developers to ask them to share their vision about the location of a casino venue in Chicago.

Eleven groups submitted responses to the Mayor’s non-binding request for information. A look through the responses these companies made suggests that most developers and other gambling investors believe that the casino should be situated in downtown Chicago. Eight of the groups said that downtown Chicago is the most suitable location for the venue. Two groups did not provide answers for the casino location question, while one group suggested that the planned venue should occupy the Harborside golf center site.

As a matter of fact, Harborside was one of the five potential casino locations that Ms. Lightfoot unveiled, although Chicago’s Mayor has not specified which of these locations was her personal preference. So far, she has not rejected the chance for opening a casino in a downtown location despite opposition from some convention and tourism industry officials.

According to Ms. Lightfoot, the request-for-information responses indicated that the companies are also eagerly anticipating the casino project that is a great opportunity for the city of Chicago, and the critical information provided in the RFI phase will help the administration make sure the project is successful.

Mayor Lightfoot’s Administration Expects to Consider Casino Bids in Early 2021

Four of the 11 responses to the questions of Mayor Lightfoot’s office came from major casino developers, including MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock and Related Midwest in collaboration with Rush Street Gaming. Another four responses were made by the real estate development companies JDL, Development Management Associates, R2 Companies and D3 Realty.

The Chicago Neighborhood Initiative, Christiansen Capital Advisors, a feasibility consultancy firm, and the casein financier MGM Growth Properties filed one response each.

The city of Chicago has explained it expected to solicit actual bids early in 2021 depending on the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on capital markets for new developments at the time. As revealed by the Mayor’s office, the 11 respondents agreed that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will have little or no impact on the casino venue considering the timeline for choosing a developer for the project and then licensing a casino operator to run the gambling facility.

Last summer, the Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker signed a gambling expansion bill into law to officially allow a long-awaited mega-casino in Chicago. Under the piece of legislation, the developer will be given the chance to establish a smaller gambling venue at a temporary site while a permanent facility is being constructed. Six of the companies that responded to the administration’s questions agreed that it would be best if a temporary site is set up at an existing location in downtown Chicago, while three respondents believe such a location would be too expensive.

According to the request-for-information phase respondents, some of the key factors in the process of selecting a permanent location for the mega-casino are economic development, proximity to other city amenities, neighborhood acceptance, premier visibility, ability to leverage the Chicago riverfront, etc.

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