Casino Operators Tell Chicago Integrated Resort Should Be Located Downtown

Posted on: December 2, 2020, 02:10h. 

Last updated on: July 7, 2021, 01:43h.

Three of the world’s largest casino operators — MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, and Hard Rock International — as well as several other gaming companies are telling officials in Chicago that its forthcoming integrated resort (IR) should be located in or near downtown.

Chicago casino resort Illinois gambling
Casinos want the Chicago casino resort to be built in a popular downtown area, one possibility being near Millennium Park. (Image: TripAdvisor)

In September, the City of Chicago sent out a Request for Information (RFI) regarding its IR project to casino operators. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) revealed the results this week, and one thing is for certain — a downtown gaming and resort destination would yield the most interest.

Eleven companies invested in the gaming industry submitted RFI responses. Eight said the casino should be located downtown or near downtown. One said it should be located in the Southeast Side near Lake Calumet. Two did not answer the location question.

Chicago isn’t disclosing which companies specified where they would most be interested in building a casino resort.

Along with MGM, Wynn, and Hard Rock, Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming also responded to the RFI. Rush owns and operates Rivers-branded casinos in Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania. Another notable RFI submission came from MGM Growth Properties, the real estate investment trust of MGM Resorts.

Casino’s Wishlist 

Before Chicago issues its formal Request for Proposals, the city’s RFI allowed government officials to better understand what casinos might seek in the development. The RFI is non-binding, meaning none of the companies that completed the survey are required to submit actual bids.

“Thanks to the responses of nearly a dozen RFI respondents, we are not only one step closer to bringing the long-awaited Chicago casino to life, but have the critical information we need to ensure this project will be a success,” Lightfoot said.

So, what do the casinos want? Along with a central downtown location, the respondents said between 10-25 acres of land is required to construct such a complex. The gaming floor should be permitted to measure 100,000-200,000 square feet and feature free slot machines, table games, and a sportsbook.

The casinos wish to incorporate a hotel, numerous food and beverage outlets, convention and entertainment space, retail shopping, and adequate parking.

Hotel proposals ranged from as small as 100 to as many as 750 rooms. All respondents said they would ideally expect to leverage existing facilities in Chicago, including its sports venues, cultural sites, and theaters.

As for COVID-19, the RFI report indicates a sense of optimism that the present coronavirus will be a thing of the past in the coming years.

“All respondents believe (hope) that the current COVID-19 pandemic will have no or a minimal impact on the casino facility, given the timing for selection and licensing of the casino operator and construction of the casino complex (respondents estimate construction timeline of 24 to 36 months),” the RFI report explains.

Integrating Integrated Resort

Leaders in Chicago’s tourism and convention industries have expressed opposition to allowing the casino resort to be built downtown.

Integrated resorts, they say, have a goal of keeping guests inside the properties, and not venturing out and patronizing neighborhood businesses.

Global Market Advisors says for an urban casino to be a successful community partner, there must be compelling reasons for resort guests to venture out. The company is a leading gaming and hospitality research and consulting firm.

“In order for an urban casino to be successful in stimulating economic development and raising the quality of life in its host community, the neighborhood in which the casino is ultimately located must also have qualities that complement the casino development,” GMA explains.