Chicago Community Meetings Discuss Casino Development Concerns

Chicago Community Meetings Discuss Casino Development Concerns

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has chosen three finalists in the bid for developing a multibillion-dollar casino in Chicago. They include Hard Rock, Bally’s, and Rivers. These developers will have Chicago meetings with Near South Side, River West, and South Loop to discuss all their concerns.

Bally’s Modifies Its Development Proposal

Mayor Lightfoot announced the finalists on March 22, 2022, and the city of Chicago restated the essence of one component. It reiterated that the chosen casino project should have at least a 25 percent minority investment.

Although the casino added this part in its plan, some people criticized it for changing it to an extent that an individual or corporation can buy off its minority investment after six years.

Chicago authorities scrutinized its proposal and made the gaming operator adjust some of its plans. Soo Kim, Bally’s chairman, said that the casino modified the plans in a manner that its minority shareholders can choose to trade their shares after the six years window elapses, but it won’t compel them to sell them.

The proposed casino’s location is another major concern for many communities. Rumors claim that it will be along the Chicago River. A popular non-profit organization in the region, Friends of the Chicago River, is determined to improve the city’s waterway.

The organization believes that Bally’s Tribune and Rivers 78 will alter Chicago’s River edge sites’ character. Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, said that wildlife and people benefit from the river and don’t always coexist with a casino.

The organization’s official added that it is opposing the construction of the casino along the river. But, she supports unique designs which include urban forests and natural riverbanks.

Hard Rock Casino Is in a Tricky Position

Hard Rock Casino plans to add a 3,500 seats music venue, a 500-room cozy hotel, and an outdoor green space. But it is also in a difficult situation as its project plan depends on $6.5 million in public funding from the state of Illinois.

It called its development proposal “One Central,” and it hasn’t gotten approval from Chicago authorities. Even so, Bob Dunn from Landmark Development said that the $1.7 billion project can go on even if it lacks public funding.

Jim Allen, Hard Rock International’s CEO, backed Dunn’s claim and added that the project’s funding would be through corporate coffers and private loans. But the casino will need many approvals from the Metra, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

Some residents are concerned about noise and traffic. They fear that the project will threaten their neighborhood’s quality of life.

About 78% of Residents Oppose Rivers 78 Casino

Rivers McCormick outperformed Rush Street Gaming in a bid. Yet, Rush Street is still competing with other operators to win the new Chicago casino bid. It plans to develop a $1.62 billion gaming site at The 78.

The gaming company plans to launch a temporary casino in Q2 of 2024 and a permanent casino in Q4 of 2025. Even so, The 78 Community Advisory Council discovered in a survey that 78 percent of 400 local respondents are opposing the casino project.

Some of them claim that it will promote crime and increase traffic. But, the President of Related Midwest, Curt R. Bailey, dismissed the survey and states that it has a small sample. Also, he added that crime tends to increase in regions with less activity, lighting, and security.

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