5 Options Finally On Table For Future Chicago Casino: What’s Next?

Written By Joe Boozell on November 1, 2021 - Last Updated on December 8, 2021

The request for proposal (RFP) deadline for the Chicago casino-resort has come and gone, and the city received five bids from three companies.

Bally’s Corp. submitted two proposals, while two companies under the Rush Street Gaming umbrella submitted separate bids. A development company that is working with Hard Rock also put forth a proposal.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement:

“We are thrilled to have received five high-caliber proposals from Bally’s Corp., HR Chicago LLC, Rivers Chicago at McCormick LLC and Rivers 78 Gaming LLC. The submission of bid responses represents a major step toward the thoughtful development of a casino-resort that uplifts our businesses, employs and empowers our residents and encourages tourism. We look forward to the next phase of discussions to bring this world-class entertainment experience to our city.”

Proposed sites of Chicago casinos

The Rivers casinos are under the Rush Street umbrella, while HR Chicago LLC is a Hard Rock proposal. Here’s where each casino would be:

  • Bally’s Chicago: Chicago Tribune Publishing Center

  • Bally’s Chicago: McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard
Images courtesy Bally’s Corp.
  • 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

Bally’s has pledged a $1.6 billion investment in a Chicago casino.

Soo Kim, Bally’s chairman, said in a statement:

Chicago is a dynamic, world-class city, which is why we are committing to make a $1.6 billion investment in establishing Bally’s Chicago as our flagship, and the only property in its class in the Chicagoland market. This property will be built, owned, and operated by Chicagoans, with a focus on minority and women investors, contractors, suppliers, consultants, and employees. It will generate tax revenue, create good-paying jobs, and attract international, national and local visitors for generations to come.”

A positive development for Chicago, Lightfoot

As recently as August, prospects for a casino in Chicago looked bleak.

The city had to extend the RFP deadline to October reportedly due to a lack of bidders. Outside of Rush Street Gaming, there wasn’t any interest.

MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Caesars Entertainment passed on the project. The Chicago casino will have an effective 40% tax rate, and some wondered whether that would require a legislative fix.

But with five bids from notable gaming companies, Chicago is in an ideal spot.

Lightfoot said over the summer that “there are no hometown favorites,” a nod to Rush Street’s Chicago headquarters.

For a while, it looked like the city might have no other choice. Now, it does.

Chicago casino bidders have Illinois presence

Rush Street, Bally’s and Hard Rock all have a footprint in the state already — to varying degrees.

Rush Street jointly owns Rivers Casino in Des Plaines with Churchill Downs. Rivers is the most popular casino in Illinois, and its name identification among residents could serve as an asset in the bidding process.

Bally’s recently purchased what was formerly known as Jumer’s Casino & Hotel. After a rebrand, the western Illinois casino is now called Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel.

Hard Rock, meanwhile, is on the cusp of having a casino in Rockford. The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) found Hard Rock “preliminarily suitable” for a license, and it is set to open a temporary casino in November.

The Chicago casino license winner will obviously have a significant presence in the Land of Lincoln.

What’s next for the Chicago casino?

Applicants will publicly present their plans soon, possibly in November or December. In 2022, Chicago should select a winning proposal.

Previously, the plan was for applicants to present their ideas in September. However, with the RFP deadline pushed back, so is the rest of the timeline.

Once the city selects a winning proposal, the company will have to submit an application to the IGB. We’ve seen the IGB take years to process casino applications.

Currently, the city hopes to open the casino by 2025. Though, of course, like everything else about this process, the timing is fluid.

Photo by Dreamstime.com
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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