As Decision on Chicago Casino Site Nears, Some Elected Officials Express Opposition

The projected tax revenue for the casino project is between $175-195 million, depending on the location

NBC Universal, Inc.

The city of Chicago is gearing up to choose a location for its first casino, but opposition remains, including from aldermen of where the three possible sites are located.

In late March, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office announced three bidders - Bally’s Corporation, Hard Rock and Rivers 78 - as finalists for the one license approved by state and city government.

The Bally's casino would located on a portion of the site of the Tribune Publishing Plant in the River West neighborhood, while Hard Rock has proposed a $1.74 billion casino resort just north of McCormick Place on Chicago’s lakefront. The third possibility, the Rivers 78 casino, calls for a $1.62 billion project on a site known as “The 78,” which borders Chinatown.

“We understand that there’s a casino that was approved by the state, approved by the city, but where this happens needs to always be in consultation with the residents," said Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, whose 25th Ward includes Chinatown and the West Loop.

State Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, is opposed to a casino near Chinatown.

"They provide food and drink and all kinds of amenities so that they don’t leave," she said. "Normally those tourists would be having lunch and dinner in Chinatown."

The projected tax revenue is between $175-195 million depending on the location — with the money earmarked to subsidize for police and fire pensions.

“The revenue is gonna shore up our police and fire pensions, critically important," Lightfoot said. "It's gonna relieve the burden on our taxpayers."

Convincing residents that a casino is a benefit is a hard sell. Some groups, such as the River North Residents Association, aren't supporting the Bally’s casino at the old Tribune Publishing site.

"We understand that we want to create jobs and that we want to have infrastructure projects and so on, but again this is not right project for… this spot," said Brian Israel with the association.

Contact Us