Bally’s Corporation is the winner in the race to build and operate the first casino in Chicago, per a recommendation by the office of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The proposal must still be approved by a committee led by selected Chicago Aldermen, which will negotiate a contract and the financials of the deal.
The proposed project, which it’s estimated would cost $1.7 billion, would be built on the site of the Tribune Publishing Center, near Grand Avenue and North Canal Street. The project would include a casino/resort, as well as retail locations, and an entertainment venue.
Bally’s proposes a 3,000-seat theater, an Immerse Agency exhibition experience; a 500-room hotel tower, six restaurants, an adjacent outdoor park, and an outdoor music amphitheater.
“I am proud to announce that Bally’s Corporation will create a world-class entertainment district in our city that will delight residents and tourists alike,” Lightfoot said.
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Project Will Create Thousands Of Jobs
The project would extend the famed Chicago Riverwalk, provide a pedestrian bridge, and make improvements to the surrounding landscape at the Tribune location. Bally’s Corporation claims the project, which would be funded entirely by the company, would result in more than 3,000 construction jobs annually.
According to details released by Mayor Lightfoot’s office, the casino would have 3,400 slots and 170 table games and create 3,000 permanent casino jobs in Chicago.
The Mayor has support from several elected officials.
“I am proud to support the forthcoming Bally’s Chicago casino here in the 27th Ward,” Alderman Walter Burnett of the 27th Ward said. “It will be a world-class entertainment destination that provides jobs, boosts tourism numbers, and brings a host of incredible amenities into the 27th ward.”
Similarly, Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward), Alderman Derrick Curtis (18th Ward), Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward), Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward), and Alderman Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward) have made statements of support for the Bally’s bid and proposal.
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Tax Revenue Will Provide Funds To Fire, Police Pensions
The City of Chicago has earmarked tax revenue from a casino in the city toward important pension funding without raising existing taxes on residents.
“Chicago Police and fire departments are in dire need of financial support, and the revenue generated by the casino will pay the pensions for both,” Alderman Curtis said.
The Mayor’s office also reported that Bally’s will use only union labor in the construction of the proposed project, which is being called the Bally’s Tribune Publishing Center Development Project.
“We are excited this casino will be built and staffed by skilled union members. It’s the working-class people of Chicago who make this a world-class city, and it’s the working-class people of Chicago who will make this a world-class casino,” Bob Reiter, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor said.
The selection of Bally’s to build a Chicago casino comes more than a year after the city issued an RFP for the project. The bidding process was closed in October 2021, with five proposals from four bidders that were trimmed to three finalists last December. Under the law, the city can issue only one license for a casino within the city limits.
For years, supporters of a Chicago casino have been working to make progress on the issue. Mayor Lightfoot, a Democrat, was elected in 2019 and promised to make the development of a casino one of her priorities. She’s received bipartisan support on the issue, despite some detractors pushing for a casino outside of the city limits.
According to a report commissioned by the City of Chicago in 2020, a casino in the Windy City could generate as much as $400 million a year in revenues annually for the City and the State of Illinois. Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, with the 2020 Census reporting a population in excess of 2.7 million.
Currently, citizens in Chicago can only bet within the city limits online or at a limited number of retail sportsbook locations. The state has 18 casino locations, with four of them on the outskirts of Chicago: Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Hollywood Casino Aurora, and Hollywood Casino Joliet.
AP Photo/Wayne Parry