s a state-hired consultant studies the economic feasibility of a casino in Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot released a list of five possible locations on the South and West Sides Wednesday.
“While a Chicago casino had been talked about for more than 30 years, today we are moving forward to ensure the new casino is viable for Chicago and all of its communities,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
The locations include Harborside (111th Street and the Bishop Ford), the former Michael Reese hospital (31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue), Pershing Road and State Street, Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue, and the former U.S. Steel parcel at 80th Street and Lake Shore Drive.
Downtown sites like Navy Pier and McCormick Place, which have been suggested as possible casino locations, are not on the list. Real estate experts argued that putting the casino downtown would maximize revenue and create the most jobs. Officials also caution the suggested spots are just test sites, and the casino won’t necessarily end up at any of them, according to WGN TV.
Donna More, the former general counsel to the Illinois Gaming Board, said the idea of a casino in Chicago is coming to fruition after years of planning. "Part of what you want a Chicago casino to do is help economic development not only for the city as a whole, the state as a whole, but for the location where it is," More said. "You want to put it in a location that’s going to help create jobs, create new ancillary businesses, better infrastructure in that area, better roads in and out."
Not everyone backs the project, as 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King strongly opposed to the Michael Reese Hospital site under consideration. “Casinos are known to have deleterious impacts on existing communities, especially communities of color,” King said in a statement.
The Chicago development would be one out of six new casinos authorized under Illinois’ gaming expansion. The city has hired Union Gaming Analytics as an outside consultant. The hope is the casino generates massive new revenue for city pensions. The casino is authorized to have up to 4,000 “gaming positions,” such as slot machines and seats at blackjack tables.
Union Gaming Analytics will study whether the setup proposed in the new law, under which the city would get a one-third cut of the post-payout revenue to help pay down its pension debt, will be attractive to investors. The report also will examine the ability to finance a city casino and will look at how different locations could affect the casino’s fortunes.
Union Gaming has until August 12 to prepare its report. Once the report is received, the Gaming Board has 90 days to recommend any changes to the terms of the license. After that, it can begin accepting applications for the owner’s license. Once applications are filed, the board has a year to award a license to a casino owner. The owner also will need to get all the appropriate approvals from the city for the casino’s location.
At the end of its spring session, the Illinois General Assembly authorized an expansion of casino gambling to Chicago, a step the city had long sought. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the law, part of massive expansion of gambling in the state, in late June.
Four of the five sites to be evaluated are publicly owned, and all have been discussed previously as potential casino sites, said Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor of neighborhood development. All are close to expressways or major highways.