The Chicago City Council has voted in favor of the $1.74-billion project of Bally’s Corporation that aims at bringing a casino to the River West neighborhood of the city. The plan was approved by 41 to 7 votes by the City Council, putting an end to a 30-year saga and marking a significant victory for Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a time when she is preparing to run for a second term as a mayor of Chicago.
The casino proposal is now heading to the state’s gambling regulatory body. The Illinois Gaming Board must issue a license to Bally’s to allow the company to operate the Chicago casino, which is expected to be established along the Chicago River, in close proximity to Halsted Street and Chicago Avenue.
The new casino and resort is set to replace the printing plant and newsroom of the Chicago Tribune, forcing the newspaper to move its operations to another location. Apart from the casino and hotel amenities, the resort is set to feature a 3,000-seat theater, an outdoor park, a fitness center, and a music and concert venue.
According to the ward’s alderman, Ald. Walter Burnett, Bally’s proposal was a great project that would help the region by providing it with a new revenue source.
Not Everyone in the City Council Welcomed the Proposed Casino Establishment
As mentioned above, the Chicago casino proposal was not unanimously approved. Seven City Council members – Ald. Brain Hopkins, Ald, Brendan Reilly, Ald. Anthony Beale, Ald. Michele Smith, Ald. Ed Burke, Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, and Ald. Raymond Lopez voted against the proposed gambling venue, while Ald. Sophia King recused herself from the vote, as her husband is one of the partners in a law firm linked to the casino deal.
According to some of the casino proposal’s opponents, the establishment of a casino would not help Chicago stabilize its finances, and the project could bring unwanted changes to the Chicago River, which has been ecologically sensitive.
Members of the Progressive Caucus within the City Council said they voted for the casino project reluctantly, and criticized the process to hold the final vote on May 25th, 2022, calling it rushed and unprecedented. Some of them explained that they supported the proposal because of Mayor Lightfoots agreement to spend Bally’s $40-million upfront payment to fund the city’s police and fire pensions, which have been seriously underfunded lately.
According to some members of the City Council, whatever money is generated by the casino, it will be better than nothing in case the preliminary revenue projections are not eventually met.
Before making their vote on May 25th, City Council members heard the pleas from a number of hospitality unions in Chicago, claiming that the 3,000 construction jobs and the 3,000 permanent jobs that are expected to be created by the proposed casino were something the city desperately needed, especially considering the negative economic consequences inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic.