Illinois Casinos

Chicago casino project: timeline and updates

Someday, the largest casino in Illinois will occupy Chicago.

The city has received five bids and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot plans to recommend her final list of candidates to the Illinois Gaming Board by the end of Q1 2022. The city hopes to open the casino by 2025.

The Chicago casino bidders are Rush Street Gaming, Bally’s and Hard Rock. Rush Street and Bally’s are responsible for two bids apiece.

The Chicago casino project has been slow-moving due to the lack of interest and unfavorable tax environment. After nearly two years of no action, the city is ready to get this show on the road. Here’s everything we know about the Chicago casino plan:

Chicago casino features

The city requested proposals for a resort that includes a casino, a hotel of up to 500 rooms, restaurants and bars. The winning operator will be allowed to open a temporary casino for up to two years at a site of their choice.

  • 4,000: How many gaming positions, including slots at O’Hare and Midway International airports.
  • $500 million: Yearly spend back to the state on nonroad infrastructure projects statewide.
  • $160 million-$200 million: Projected annual revenue for police/fire pension funds.
  • 40%: Effective tax rate the Chicago casino would pay, down from 72%.
  • 2025: Year casino will be open for business.

Who are the Chicago casino bidders?

Here’s what we know about the bidders and the proposed locations:

  • Bally’s Chicago: Chicago Tribune Publishing Center
  • Bally’s Chicago: McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard
  • Rivers Chicago at McCormick LLC: McCormick Place Lakeside Center
  • Rivers 78 Gaming LLC: 78 Chicago development site in the south loop
  • Hard Rock Chicago: Unknown

Potential sites for the Chicago casino

Under Lightfoot’s direction, the city put out a Request For Information (RFI) on a downtown location. Essentially, an RFI is a dressed-up solicitation for public comment by the city. It gathers data and feedback about several items pertinent to placing a casino near downtown, such as:

  • Amenities that potential casino patrons would desire.
  • Feasibility of development with COVID-19 safety protocols.
  • Impact of the increased automobile and foot traffic on neighboring communities.
  • Interest in a smaller placeholder casino in the area.
  • The readiness of local hotels and restaurants to handle additional business.

Timeline for the Chicago casino project

Here’s a timeline of events concerning the Chicago casino project:

  • Dec. 16: All bidders present their plans to the city, public
  • Dec. 15: Chicago allows retail stadium sports betting, which Chicago casino bidders were not in favor of
  • Oct. 31, 2021: Chicago receives five bids from three major gaming operators.
  • Aug. 6, 2021: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot moves the request for proposal deadline to Oct. 29 from its previous date of Aug. 23, hoping the extra days bring in additional bidders.
  • July 26: 2021: Wynn Resorts calls the Chicago casino project complicated.
  • July 12, 2021: Lightfoot spoke at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) conference and made a point to say the Chicago casino bidding process is wide open.
  • April 30, 2021: MGM Resorts calls the city’s process and tax rates “complicated” during an earnings call, which means Illinois won’t see an MGM casino in Chicago.
  • April 22, 2021: The city issues a proposal (RFP) for a single casino license. The deadline for the RFPs is Aug. 23.
  • March 18, 2021: Lightfoot hopes to see Las Vegas gaming companies make a bid to be the future Chicago casino.
  • Dec. 3, 2020: Chicago releases its summary of responses from the Request For Information (RFI).
  • Oct. 21, 2020: City’s request for information deadline closes; hears responses from major casino operators.
  • Aug. 27, 2020: Chicago puts out RFI for a downtown casino site.
  • May 2020: Amendment 5 becomes law, revises tax code for Chicago casino.
  • January 2020: Lightfoot announces her preference for a downtown site.
  • December 2019: Amendment fails in the Illinois Legislature by five votes.
  • November 2019: IL Rep. Bob Rita introduces the first amendment to adjust the tax code for Chicago casino.
  • Aug. 13, 2019: Union Gaming Analytics releases its study, specifies five specific locations, and deems tax structure untenable.
  • July 8, 2019: Illinois Gaming Board misses a deadline to select a firm to conduct a feasibility study.
  • June 28, 2019: Pritzker signs the bill authorizing a Chicago casino into law.

What’s the tax structure for the Chicago casino?

Since the project’s inception, the city and the state have planned to tax the casino’s revenue aggressively. They’ve somewhat backed off of that, however.

A Union Gaming Analytics study performed in August 2019 ascertained that a downtown Chicago casino could produce billions of dollars of revenue. However, it also determined that such a facility would not profit, given the original tax structure.

Like with many other casinos, revenue would face a graduated tax. The actual rates and thresholds made it so that the casino would have effectively paid 72% of its aggregate gross revenue to the city and state.

With only 28% of what it took in after comps and other tax rebates left to cover its expenses, having something to show for the business’ operation would have proven extremely difficult. For that reason, IL lawmakers worked to adjust the tiers in late May.

The amendment to the Illinois gambling law did not drop the rates for a Chicago casino. It did, however, raise the tiers for each graduated rate significantly.

For example, instead of paying a top rate of 74.7% on monthly slot revenue over $200 million, that rate now only applies to slot revenue of more than $1 billion in a month.

Here is the table for slot taxes:

Adjusted Gross RevenueStateCityTotal
$0-$25 million12%10.5%22.5%
$25 million-$50 million16%14%30%
$50 million-$75 million20.1%17.4%37.5%
$75 million-$100 million21.4%18.6%40%
$100 million-$150 million22.7%19.8%42.5%
$150 million-$225 million24.1%20.9%45%
$225 million-$1 billion26.8%23.2%50%
$1 billion+40%34.7%74.7%

The tax tiers for table games also increased with the latest legal wrangling. Again, the aim was to reduce the overall liability without dropping the rates themselves.

Adjusted Gross RevenueStateCityTotal
$0-$25 million8.1%6.9%15%
$25 million-$75 million10.7%8.4%19.1%
$75 million-$175 million11.2%9.8%21%
$175 million-$225 million13.5%11.5%25%
$225 million-$275 million15.1%12.9%28%
$275 million-$375 million16.2%13.8%30%
$375 million+18.9%16.1%35%

The journey to the point where the city has put out an RFI and the state has adjusted the tax code has been interesting. This project already has quite a history.

Why is the Chicago casino project unique?

Perhaps the most crucial difference between this and other IL casinos is the size of the project. State law authorizes up to 4,000 gaming positions at this facility.

Other IL casinos face a cap of 2,000 gaming positions. If you add amenities like convention space, a hotel, and restaurants, this could quickly become one of the largest casinos in the nation.

That’s interesting given the landscape that already exists in the greater Chicago area. Rivers Casino sits in suburban Des Plaines, for example.

Additionally, there are off-track betting sites in several Chicago suburbs. If you cross the state line into Indiana, the Ameristar East Chicago is a short drive. Hard Rock Casino opened in May 2021 in Gary.

DraftKings plans to operate a brick-and-mortar sportsbook near Wrigley Field.

If it ever becomes a reality, the Chicago casino project could become the jewel of the nation’s third-largest gambling market.

Illinois casinos near me

The Prairie State boasts 10 casinos. One of them is sure to be within a short driving distance. The following casinos operate in Illinois:

Argosy Casino Alton

Argosy Casino opened in 1991 on a small riverboat called the Alton Belle. Two years later, the larger Alton Belle II replaced its predecessor, substantially increasing the gaming positions in the boat. The casino remains on the same boat today. However, it no longer cruises as the state changed the law in 1999 to allow casino boats to stay permanently moored. While this casino doesn’t offer lodging, it does feature more than 800 slot machines and 12 gaming tables. In addition, gamblers can wager on sporting events at the self-branded retail book on board.

  • Address: 1 Piasa St., Alton, IL 62002
  • Telephone: 618-474-7500

DraftKings at Casino Queen

DraftKings at Casino Queen opened in June 1993 on a boat called the White Star One. In 2007, the operations moved inland. At the same time, gaming operations significantly expanded. In 2020, DraftKings Sportsbook partnered with the casino’s management to integrate its brand into the property’s name. The companies did so to satisfy the state’s co-branding rules for online sports betting. Today, you can find a hotel, an RV park, over 1,000 slots, 30 gaming tables and a massive retail sportsbook on the property. The complex also includes several dining options.

  • Address: 200 S. Front St., East St. Louis, IL 62201
  • Telephone: 618-874-5000

Grand Victoria Casino

Since October 1994, Grand Victoria Casino has provided casino gaming to residents of Chicago’s far northwest suburbs. The property is now one of Caesars’ many holdings throughout the country. The retail sportsbook was one of the first to open in 2020. Besides that, the casino offers several dining options, event space, over 1,100 slot machines and 36 gaming tables. Although the casino offers no lodging for guests, it does have a VIP area for its most frequent patrons.

  • Address: 250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin, IL 60120
  • Telephone: 847-468-7000

Harrah’s Casino Joliet

Harrah’s Casino Joliet has come a long way since its beginnings on the Northern Star boat in May 1993. The gaming floor now rests on two barges that boast over 50,000 square feet. Taking up that space is 31 gaming tables, over 600 slot machines and dining options. There is also a 200-room hotel adjacent to the Des Plaines River where the barges lay. The Harrah’s poker room is closed permantely.

  • Address: 151 N. Joliet St., Joliet, IL 60432
  • Telephone: 815-740-7800

Harrah’s Metropolis Casino

If you’re looking for entertainment along the Ohio River, this property might be your best bet. The 800 slot machines, 20 gaming tables, five restaurants, event space and a 258-room hotel await you at Harrah’s Metropolis Casino. This Caesars property has been open since 1994 when investment by Merv Griffin fueled the creation of what was then called Players Island. The moored boat also offers a steakhouse to fuel your gameplay.

  • Address: 100 E. Front St., Metropolis, IL 62960
  • Telephone: 618-524-2628

Hollywood Casino Aurora

Hollywood Casino Aurora was once the first-ever casino boat for the Hollywood corporation, but it’s now a Penn National Gaming holding. With continuous operation since 1993, it’s also one of the oldest properties in IL.

The boat moored along the Fox River boasts 26 gaming tables and over 1,100 slot machines on over 53,000 square feet of the gaming floor. There is no adjacent lodging, but the boat features three restaurants.

  • Address: 1 W. New York St., Aurora, IL 60506
  • Telephone: 630-801-7000

Hollywood Casino Joliet

Hollywood Casino Joliet was once known as the Empress Casino, starting operation in 1992. Since Penn National acquired the Hollywood brand in 2005, it did a major renovation that the company completed in 2009. Onboard the boat, you’ll find a retail sportsbook, five restaurants, 18 gaming tables and more than 1,100 slot machines. There is a 100-room hotel adjacent to the boat as well.

  • Address: 777 Hollywood Blvd., Joliet, IL 60436
  • Telephone: 815-744-9400

Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel

Bally’s Corporation officially assumed ownership of Jumer’s in 2021 to be Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel. Representing the Illinois half of the Quad Cities, Jumer’s started as a riverboat in 1991. On-site, you’ll find a 205-room hotel, four restaurants, a poker room, a competitive offering of 25 gaming tables and over 850 slot machines. Because of its position on the Mississippi River, this casino pulls in many guests from neighboring Iowa.

  • Address: 777 Ballys Blvd., Rock Island, IL 61201
  • Telephone: 309-756-4600

Par-A-Dice Casino

Located in the middle of the state, Par-A-Dice Casino is a casino boat docked on Peoria Lake. There’s something for everyone: a hotel, several restaurants, a retail sportsbook, 25 gaming tables and over 800 slot machines.

  • Address: 21 Blackjack Blvd., East Peoria, IL 61611
  • Telephone: 309-698-7711

Rivers Casino

The closest casino to Chicago proper enjoys its position just minutes away from O’Hare International Airport. In March and April 2020, its proprietary sportsbook brand BetRivers became the state’s first legal retail and online sportsbook. Rivers Casino is the youngest casino in IL, as it opened its doors in July 2011. It has all the trappings with six dining options, 65 gaming tables and over 1,000 slot machines. The casino does not have lodging, however.

  • Address: 3000 S. River Road, Des Plaines, IL 60018
  • Telephone: 847-795-0777
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