Missed Deadline Threatens To Delay New Chicago Casino

Posted on July 24, 2019

There’s little doubt that the Illinois Legislature is aggressive on the opening of a new Chicago casino. Its timetable is so optimistic that the reality of making it happen is lagging behind.

The state agency responsible for regulating gambling has already missed a deadline set by the Illinois Legislature. Because of that, the ability to get a new gaming facility open in the state’s most populous region quickly is in doubt.

What deadline for the new Chicago casino was missed?

In the same gambling expansion law that legalized Illinois sports betting, the state authorized a mega-casino in the Chicago area. The Legislature set up a timetable for the expansion to unfurl.

One of the items on that schedule was the selection of a firm to complete a feasibility study. They charged the Illinois Gaming Board with hiring a firm to conduct it.

The study would help determine where to place the new casino and whether or not a private investor should develop the casino.

The deadline to hire a firm was July 8 and yet the board hasn’t chosen a firm yet. A board representative relayed the status of the search in a WTTW article.

“The IGB (Illinois Gaming Board) is bound by the procurement code and the law. We are working through the process to fulfill this mandate.”

Factors causing the firm selection delay

The board put out a bid, but making a selection isn’t as simple as hiring a contractor to renovate a bathroom. The selected firm must jump through some hoops.

Contending firms must prove they have completed such studies in the past. They must also disclose any relationships they have with gambling operators.

Finally, they have to share any prior relationship with any person or entity related to the city of Chicago and Illinois governments.

If any of the firms clear those hurdles and are willing to complete the study for what the board bid, then work can begin. The late start, however, creates challenges for any firm.

Future Chicago casino deadlines in doubt

The Legislature’s timeline calls for the finished study by Aug. 12. At this point, a finished study by that date seems unlikely.

The board is required to make some important decisions within 90 days of receipt of the completed study. Under the original timeline that would have been mid-November.

The current situation makes early 2020 look more realistic. At that time the board will have to report the findings of the study back to the Legislature.

The board will also make recommendations on matters like whether to involve a private developer and where to put the casino.

Another issue might complicate the board’s ability to produce the desired recommendations in an expedient manner.

Illinois Gaming Board understaffed

The new burden of making these important decisions for the state comes at an inopportune time.

Board chairman Don Tracy resigned last month, creating two vacancies on the board. With only three of the five prescribed members available, the workload becomes heavier.

Filling those positions will also take time. State laws put the onus of nominations on Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Those nominations are confirmed or denied by the state Senate.

So far it looks like the Legislature’s timeline for gambling expansion was too optimistic. There’s little doubt that six new casinos, including the huge facility in Chicago, will eventually open. It’s just a matter of when.

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