Chicago Casino Resort Developers Tout Their Billion-Dollar Proposals to the Public

Posted on: December 16, 2021, 10:15h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2022, 09:04h.

CHICAGO – Residents in the Windy City got a chance Thursday to hear directly from the development teams behind the five projects vying for Chicago’s casino license.

Chicago Casino Presentations
Representatives from the companies seeking Chicago’s casino license sits on the stage of the Dorin Forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago Thursday and answer questions from the audience about their projects. (Image:

The public presentations at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago are part of the selection process. City leaders are using it to determine a finalist and present that project to the Illinois Gaming Board for licensure.

The city tried for years to get a casino, and finally secured a license when the Illinois legislature passed an expanded gaming bill in 2019. Tax revenues generated by the Chicago casino resort will be used to pay down the city’s public pension liability.

But the city has faced some challenges just to get to this point. After the 2019 bill was passed, there were serious concerns about the effective tax rate not being feasible. That was amended through additional legislation. But there were worries that the request for proposal the city released in April would not attract bidders. City officials opted to extend the deadline by more than two months to Oct. 29, and encouraged gaming companies to contact them about the opportunity.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in her opening remarks for the six-hour-plus session Thursday, thanked the gaming companies and development teams for betting on the city.

“We are not going to waste this opportunity,” she said. “We are going to maximize it for the benefit of our residents to make sure that we secure our financial future.”

Three gaming operators – Bally’s Corp., Hard Rock International, and Rush Street Gaming – ended up submitting proposals, with Bally’s and Rush Street offering the city two proposals each.

Diversity and Inclusion Key Topics for Discussion

Among the topics the development teams discussed during their presentations was their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Jim Reynolds, founder, chairman, and CEO of Loop Capital, is a partner in the Hard Rock proposal at ONE Central, said that a key to providing more opportunities for minority communities is by having an ownership interest in the project.

Equity is the key,” he said. “If you’re not in the equity chair, you don’t drive those decision to say, ‘We’re going to focus on that group of folks. We’re going to spend the money on that group of folks.’

“In our project, I’m at the table.”

2025 Target Opening Date for Chicago Casino

Lightfoot has said she wants the Chicago casino’s permanent facility to open by 2025. A temporary casino would be allowed to operate for up to two years as the resort is constructed. Lightfoot and the city hope to have a finalist picked in the first half of 2022.

The five projects range in size of investment from $1.3 billion to $2 billion. The number of slot machines vary from 2,600 at the two Rush Street projects to 3,400 at Hard Rock and the two Bally’s bids. Rush Street is proposing to offer 190 table games, compared to 173 for Bally’s and 166 for Hard Rock.

Four of the five projects would include hotels. The only one that does not is Rush Street’s Rivers Chicago at McCormick. That development would utilize the 2,900 hotel rooms in the vicinity of McCormick Place, the city’s convention center. Rivers Chicago, though, could expand and add 250 hotel rooms if the demand was there.