Chicago Officials Narrow Down the Proposed Casino Resort Projects to Three Finalists

Chicago officials have gradually reduced the five proposals for a casino and resort in the city tabled by three companies to eliminate the two proposals that were seeking to make the establishment at McCormick Place.

The move leaves all three gambling operators that have taken part in the competition with a single bid still in the running. Currently, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council expect the establishment of the casino resort to boost the economy of the city and bring fresh revenue of about $200 million to the police and fire brigade’s pension funds, which would significantly ease the pressure on Chicago finances. At the same time, such an establishment would create thousands of new jobs and is expected to attract more tourists to the city.

The three projects that remain in the competition are:

  • Rush Street Gaming, a company led by Neil Bluhm, a local billionaire investor and the operator of the Rivers Casino Des Plaines, and its $1.62-billion casino resort proposal. According to the proposal, the casino resort is set to be established on a vacant piece of land between Chinatown and the South Loop.
  • Bally’s and its $1.74-billion proposal, under which the casino resort is set to be hosted on a site that has served as the printing plant and newsroom of the Chicago Tribune in close proximity to Halsted Street and Chicago Avenue.
  • Hard Rock and its $1.74-billion casino and resort project that would be established as part of the proposed One Central development. If approved, the venue will be hosted on a piece of land across DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Soldier Field.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has shared that she does not expect to choose one of the three finalists. She addressed the Chicago City Council and asked it to ratify her decision by the beginning of the summer, which would be a significant delay, considering the fact that the five casino resort projects were unveiled last fall. Then, in December Mayor Lightfoot shared that she expected to make a decision on the matter in early 2022.

Two Proposals Involving McCormick Place’s Land Will Not Be Part of the Finalists

According to CFO Jennie Huang Bennett, the decision to reduce the overall number of casino proposals would provide the city leaders with the chance to conduct an “authentic” community engagement project so that local voters are able to review the details of each proposal and compare them in the sessions scheduled for April 5th, 6th and 7th. Ms. Huang Bennett also acknowledged that every month of delay costs the city millions of dollars.

As soon as Mayor Lightfoot makes her decision, a special City Council committee consisting of all chairs and vice-chairs of local committees, plus President Pro Temp Alderman Brendan Reilly, will assemble. However, the approval of the Chicago City Council would not be enough. The selected casino resort project would need the approval of the Illinois Gaming Board.

According to reports, for the time being, it is the Bally’s casino resort project that is considered the most lucrative for the city and its sister agencies.

As mentioned above, Chicago officials have rejected two proposals involving the land of McCormick Place. The rejected casino resort projects involved a proposal from Rush Street Gaming aimed at renovating the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place, as well as Bally’s project seeking to establish a casino on the south side of McCormick Place.