A special committee of the Chicago City Council on Monday greenlighted Bally's $1.7 billion casino plans and sent the issue for consideration to the full city council, one of the final required steps to see the city's first and sole casino closer to becoming a reality.
The committee voted 27 to 3 to approve the plan, which has already been selected by the Mayor's office earlier this month. Aldermen Brendan Reilly, Brian Hopkins and Michele Smith voted against the measure. Mayor Lori Lightfoot's team used a parliamentary maneuver to delay a full city council vote Monday, but ensured one would happen at the next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, abc7 Chicago reports.
The proposed Bally's casino in the River West neighborhood, at the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant, is inching closer to city council approval, but aldermen are still demanding answers. Projected revenues are one big concern, with the money earmarked for pensions so property taxes don't have to be raised.
"I'll go on the record right now," 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins said. "I don't believe we're going to see $200 million a year from this in six years, I don't believe it."
"Would Bally's be willing to guarantee the city a baseline of $200 million in annual revenue after 2027, holding taxpayers harmless if these projections are woefully overstated?" 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly asked.
And even though Bally's is committing $2 million a year to security around the temporary site at Medinah Temple in River North, there were still concerns about safety, about how minority investments and crowdsourcing would work, and how Bally's would handle the homeless. Aldermen were also frustrated by the pressure to move so quickly. The mayor's team says part of the need to hurry is so the $40 million upfront payment from Bally's could be included in budget planning.
The city also clarified that due to planned street improvements, the temporary casino had to be moved from the old Tribune site to the Medinah Temple building, 600 N. Wabash Ave. in River North, slated to open in Q2 2023.
After full city council approval, its next step is the Illinois Gaming Board and then back to the city council for zoning and other approvals.