City Axes 2 Proposals, Leaving 3 Finalists In Chicago Casino Race

Written By Joe Boozell on March 22, 2022 - Last Updated on April 4, 2022
Hard Rock

Chicago cut two megacasino bids on Tuesday, whittling the list of proposals from five to three.

Rivers Chicago McCormick and Bally’s McCormick Place are out, leaving Bally’s Chicago Tribune Publishing Center, Rivers 78 and Hard Rock One Central left as the remaining Chicago casino bids.

Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which owns the McCormick Place convention center complex, said it doesn’t want to transform its facilities into a casino. That is the reason the city axed both McCormick Place proposals.

Scott Goodman, who led the Rivers McCormick bid, said in a statement:

“We were proud to present a casino proposal that brings the most value to taxpayers – more than $1.5 billion taxpayer benefit over all other bids – by investing in a publicly-owned space. While we are disappointed this proposal was not selected to move forward, we want to thank the City of Chicago and MPEA for their consideration. We wish the eventual winner and the city at large great success, as Chicago’s first casino will be a destination for all to enjoy and a revenue generator for local governments.”

Previously, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration said it hoped to choose a winning bidder by the end of the first quarter of 2022. That deadline will not be met, and early summer appears more realistic.

Once the city chooses a bid, the winner will still need to apply for a license with the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB).

With the list down to three, the city will hold “community engagement meetings” to discuss the remaining proposals.

Those will take place the following days:

  • Hard Rock: April 5 at the Harold Washington Library
  • Bally’s: April 6 at the Tribune Publishing Plant
  • Rivers: April 7 at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum

Lightfoot said in a statement that the three remaining proposals:

“… best fit the core goals we want to achieve for the City’s first integrated casino-resort. Each proposal offers economic, employment, and equity-focused opportunities for Chicago, while simultaneously enhancing the City’s cultural, entertainment and architectural scenes with world-class amenities and design.”

Is the Hard Rock Chicago proposal feasible?

Hard Rock, which is currently in the process of building a new casino in Rockford, submitted a proposal that appeared far-fetched at first glance. But it may actually be more realistic than it seemed on the surface.

Hard Rock’s bid hinges on One Central, a proposed mixed-use development west of Soldier Field, being built. However, Hard Rock Chicago can proceed before anything is finalized with One Central.

Jennie Bennett, Chicago’s chief financial officer, said:

“The Hard Rock proposal proposes a phase one where the remainder of One Central does not need to move forward. It’s not contingent on state funding.”

However, Hard Rock would still need One Central to receive funding at some point in the future. There also may be another issue: the Hard Rock proposal contains a temporary casino at McCormick Place.

Bennett, though, said Hard Rock is open to being flexible with its temporary casino location.

More details on Bally’s, Rivers proposals

For those who are unaware, here’s a quick rundown of the other two bids:

Rivers 78

  • Location: Along the Chicago River between South Loop and Chinatown
  • Price: $1.6 billion
  • Temporary casino: Yes, a riverboat docked within The 78 development site
  • Features: A 300-room hotel to go along with bars, restaurants and a food hall; an observation tower and a riverfront plaza

Bally’s Tribune Publishing Center

  • Location: Near north side
  • Price: Up to $1.7 billion
  • Temporary casino: Yes, at the same site as the permanent casino
  • Features: Bally’s Sports Bar; Chicago sports museum; a rooftop space with bars, lounges and pools; a 500-room hotel
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and 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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