Chicago Casino Update: Downtown Is Prize Location For Most Potential Operators

Written By Joe Boozell on December 3, 2020 - Last Updated on March 18, 2021

The city of Chicago has released a summary of responses to its August Request For Information (RFI), and most of the potential operators would prefer a downtown casino location.

Eleven organizations responded to the RFI, and eight said they’d want to build the casino in or near downtown. One suggested a location near Lake Calumet on the southeast side.

The others did not specify a preferred location.

Well-known operators, such as MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming were among the respondents. Rush Street also owns Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

It’s no surprise that potential operators prefer a downtown location. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has advocated for the south or west sides in the past to spur economic development, but a downtown hub has better financial prospects.

The process may be crawling along, but the Chicago casino project is finally starting to gain some steam.

Temporary Chicago casino in the short-term?

In the summary, six respondents said they’d want to operate a temporary casino while a larger, permanent facility is under construction.

They believe early cash flow would help pay for the permanent facility. They also cited early tax generation and job creation. Another added benefit would be the ability to develop a reliable customer base as early as possible.

Three respondents were against a temporary casino. They cited potential confusion in the market place and the added costs of building a temporary facility.

Two respondents chose not to answer this question.

How long would the construction of the permanent casino take? Respondents estimated that it could take anywhere from 24 to 36 months.

They don’t anticipate COVID-19 having much of an impact on the selection or licensing of the facility, as good vaccine news keeps coming.

As for a temporary casino, all respondents agreed that repurposing an existing structure would be a better idea than constructing a new facility.

They also all agreed that it should be in a different location than the permanent site.

Other amenities

Most respondents agreed that the casino should have a hotel.

Only one disagreed, saying that it would initially use surrounding Chicago hotels. But it said it might build a hotel later on.

All respondents also said it was important for the casino to be a multipurpose space. They estimate that the casino floor will be anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet.

Lots of Illinois casino news in late 2020

It’s been a busy couple of months in terms of Illinois casino updates, to say the least.

In November, Pritzker shut down the state’s 10 casinos in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Illinois has become a viral hot spot over the last month.

This is the second time Pritzker has shut down Illinois casinos in 2020, the first stretch beginning in March.

And in late October, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) chose not to issue decisions on several casino license applications. Instead, eight applicants amended their applications.

It was a controversial move, as the IGB supposedly had a year to make a decision from the time applications were filed.

The 2019 Illinois Gambling Act allows six new casinos to be built in Illinois in the following areas: Chicago, Danville, Williamson County, Waukegan, Rockford and the south suburbs.

As it stands, no new licenses have been handed out. And while Chicago will probably still be the latest of this group, it might not be by much.

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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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