Report: Developers Say Chicago Casino Needs to be Downtown

Report: Developers Say Chicago Casino Needs to be Downtown
By Lou Monaco

A majority of potential developers say a casino in Chicago would be best downtown.

Over the summer, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office asked casino developers where they would like to break ground on a future casino. A report released by the city on Wednesday suggested that most developers and gaming companies agree that it should be built downtown, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Eight of the 11 groups “believe the casino should be located downtown (or near downtown),” the mayor’s office said, according to the story in the Sun-Times. Two groups didn’t answer the location question, and one group said it should go in the Harborside golf center site on the Southeast side.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Chicago casino bill —Senate Bill 516 — into law in early July to enact a tax schedule on adjusted gross receipts ranging from 22.5% to 77.4% on slots and 15-35% for table games. The Illinois Senate had passed the Chicago casino bill 42-14.

Chicago would be the largest American city with a casino. A majority of the revenue from it would go to the state and some would be earmarked for needs in the city such as pensions for police and firefighters.

"Working with the General Assembly and Mayor Lightfoot, we accomplished what eluded so many others, and now this momentous legislation tackles key priorities for the state of Illinois — helping to ensure that Chicago can pay for first responders' pensions and alleviate the burden on property taxpayers, along with investing in universities and hospitals throughout the state," Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a news release when he signed the bill.

Sites Suggested Last Summer

Last summer, Harborside was among five potential casino sites the Lightfoot suggested on the South and West sides, though the mayor has not disclosed where she’d like to see built.

Below are the proposed sites Lightfoot proposed in July 2019:

  • The Harborside site is very close to the Far South Side’s Pullman neighborhood and is a 63-acre location.
  • The old Michael Reese Hospital is a bit west of South Lake Shore Drive and is a part of the Burnham Lakefront.
  • The site on Pershing Road and State Street is only four blocks south of the Chicago White Sox stadium, Guaranteed Rate Field and sits on 19-acres.
  • The biggest location, at the old U.S. Steel parcel, is now known as South Works. It sits on 440 acres and is the only privately owned location on the list of five sites.
  • The site on the West Side, just a couple of blocks south of the Eisenhower Expressway, sits on 23 acres. It is along Kostner avenue a bit north of Roosevelt Road.

Major Casino Developers Interested

Four of the 11 responses received by the city, according to the Sun-Times, came from major casino developers: Hard Rock, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Related Midwest in partnership with Rush Street Gaming.

Four responses came from real estate developers D3 Realty, Development Management Associates, JDL and R2 Companies, the Sun-Times reported. One response each came from casino real estate investment trust MGM Growth Properties, casino feasibility consultant Christiansen Capital Advisors and the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative.

Lightfoot said in a statement the request for information responses “are indicative of the excitement and anticipation of this once-in-a-lifetime project. Thanks to the responses of nearly a dozen RFI respondents, we are not only one step closer to bringing the long-awaited Chicago casino to life but have the critical information we need to ensure this project will be a success.”

According to the Sun-Times story, the city says it expects to solicit actual bids early next year “depending upon the pandemic and its impact on capital markets for new development projects at that time.”

Lightfoot’s office noted the 11 respondents “agreed that the current COVID-19 pandemic will have no or minimal impact on the finally constructed casino facility given the timeline for selecting and licensing a casino operator and construction of the casino complex.”



Lou Monaco had been East Coast Scene columnist for Gaming Today in Las Vegas since June 2019, covering the East Coast sportsbook scene with emphasis on NJ and PA. He also currently is a part-time writer for the high school sports department for NJ Advanced Media ( in Iselin, NJ. Lou has over 30 years sports experience with previous stints at ESPN SportsTicker, Daily Racing Form and Oddschecker.

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