Lori Lightfoot

Residents Weigh In on Finalists for Billion-Dollar Chicago Casino Project

Beginning Tuesday and continuing through Thursday, the city will hold community engagement meetings for Bally's Tribune, Hard Rock and Rivers 78

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Chicago residents are weighing in on proposed locations for a new casino in the city as public meetings are held for each of the finalists.

Beginning Tuesday and continuing through Thursday, the city will hold community engagement meetings for Bally's Tribune, Hard Rock and Rivers 78. The meetings will be livestreamed, and in-person priority will be given to residents who live in the respective ZIP codes of the projects.

"These meetings will consist of a presentation by the bidder and will provide an opportunity for residents to ask questions and share feedback," the city said in a release.

Tuesday's meeting allowed Hard Rock to make its pitch to the public. The company touted their site's location near Soldier Field, adding it would include a 3,500-seat live music venue and a hotel tower. They also noted there's already public transportation in the area.

Wednesday night's meeting is set to focus on Bally's Corporation and Thursday's will center on Rivers 78.

Once this process is complete, finalists will be evaluated by city officials, and a winning bid will then be chosen. The Chicago City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board will have to sign off on any chosen bid, however.

The process to bring a casino to Chicago took another significant step forward on late last month when Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced that three bidders had advanced to the next stage in the competition for a license.

The license, the only one approved for the city by state government, will now be up for a competition between Bally’s, Hard Rock and Rivers 78.

“We have spent countless hours analyzing each proposal for Chicago’s casino license and have determined that Bally’s Tribune, Hard Rock Chicago and Rivers 78 best fit the core goals we want to achieve for the city’s first integrated casino-resort,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

City officials expect the casino site to generate approximately $400 million in revenue per year, while supporting the city’s tourism industry and economic development initiatives.

Chicago officials also provided a breakdown of each potential casino project:

Bally’s Corporation (Tribune Site) – Bally’s has proposed a $1.74 billion casino project and hotel, which would be located on a portion of the site of the Tribune Publishing Plant in the River West neighborhood.

The proposal includes a 3,000 seat theater, a sports museum, an extension of the Chicago Riverwalk, a pedestrian bridge, a 500-room hotel, an outdoor music venue and park, and six different restaurants.

The proposal would provide space for an estimated 3,400 slot machines and more than 150 gaming tables.

A temporary casino would open in 2023, with the permanent location expected to open in early 2026.

Hard Rock (ONE Central Site) – Hard Rock is proposing a $1.74 billion casino resort just to the north of McCormick Place on Chicago’s lakefront. The proposal would include a 3,500-seat live music venue, a 500-room hotel tower, restaurants, and six different bars and lounges.

According to officials, more than 3,000 slot machines and 166 gaming tables would be included in the plans.

Officials with Hard Rock say they would open a temporary casino in mid-2023, and a permanent casino by late 2025.

Rivers (78) – Rivers 78 includes a $1.62 billion casino project on the site known as “The 78,” a large development on Chicago’s South Side. The proposal would include a riverfront area, an observation tower, a riverfront venue for live entertainment, a 300-room hotel tower, and eight different restaurants.

The site would include room for more than 2,600 slot machines and 190 table games.

A temporary casino could open at the site in early 2024, while the permanent location would open in late 2025, according to officials.

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