Chicago City Council

Chicago City Council Members Share Mixed Reactions on Temporary Casino Proposal

At a news conference Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed concerns regarding the temporary casino location.

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Some members of the Chicago City Council got the chance to ask questions about plans for the city's first casino Monday, with some expressing concerns about the temporary casino location in River North.

The city announced last week Bally's will be awarded its sole casino license. The entertainment company plans to construct a $1.74 billion casino on a portion of the site of the current industrial Tribune Publishing Center in the River West neighborhood.

While it may take up to three years for the building to be finished, people will have a place to go well before that.

Bally's will open a temporary casino at the Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave., the former site of Bloomingdale's Home Store, until the Tribune site can be constructed into a permanent spot.

"This temporary site downtown will bring visitors to a part of the city in need of enhanced economic need and vibrancy because of the impact of the pandemic," Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor of Chicago, said.

Monday it was made clear the site will still be able to serve liquor despite not having a license.

"We will not be lifting any liquor moratoriums citywide," Mayekar said. "Certain establishments are exempt from moratoriums like hotels, restaurants, sports stadiums and casinos, consistent with policy."

Along with a casino, the complete Bally's project will feature a 3,000-seat theatre, extended the Chicago Riverwalk and a pedestrian bridge and add a 500-room hotel.

At a news conference Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed concerns regarding the temporary location.

"Bally's has made a commitment, $5 million, to safety around the site of the temporary casino. In addition to that, we will be supporting that using our community benefit dollars," she stated.

A special City Council committee met virtually to discuss the project and ask questions.

"In this process it is my goal and should be all goals to make sure this deal is as inclusive as many people as it can be for our city," said Ald. Jason Ervin of the city's 28th Ward and vice chair of the committee. "This is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities."

Another council member who is opposed to the temporary casino, Ald. Brendan Reilly, of the city's 42nd Ward, questioned whether an analysis about crime and safety was conducted.

Officials estimate a casino could bring in $200 million dollars a year in tax revenue for police and fire pensions. Bally's said it would spend more than $75 million on several projects to ease traffic challenges in the area and invest in safety at both the temporary and permanent casinos.

Ultimately the Illinois Gaming Board and full City Council still have to sign off on the project.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct amount officials estimate a casino could bring in per year in tax revenue.

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