No Wynn For The Windy City: Chicago Casino Project Loses Out On Future Wynn Resorts Bid

Posted By Joe Boozell on July 26, 2021

Wynn Resorts will not submit a proposal for the Chicago casino license, a spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. The spokesman declined to comment further.

Wynn was one of four respondents to the city of Chicago’s original Request For Information (RFI). MGM Resorts, Hard Rock and Rush Street were the others.

However, MGM has also said it will not submit a proposal for the license amid cost concerns. MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in April:

“Chicago is just complicated.

“The history there in Chicago, the tax and the notion of integrated resort at scale don’t necessarily marry up. And while I think they’ve had some improvement, we’re not overly keen or focused at this point in time there.”

It could cost more than $1 billion to develop the casino, according to a source in the Wall Street Journal story. That, combined with high tax rates, may diminish interest among some of the most established casino operators.

With Wynn and MGM out of the running, that leaves Rush Street and Hard Rock as the only confirmed interested suitors. However, a company can still submit a Chicago casino bid even if they didn’t respond to the RFI, so there may be more bidders.

Previously, Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver told Crain’s Chicago Business of the project:

“When a large city of significance decides to consider a gaming resort, we are interested. Chicago fits that profile.”

But with more information, Wynn has decided to pass.

Is ‘hometown’ Rush Street the favorite to land the Chicago casino license?

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke about the future casino at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States in Chicago recently, and went out of her way to mention that the operator is not a foregone conclusion:

“There’s a little conversation about this, I’m told. This RFP (Request for Proposals) is wide open. There are no hometown favorites. We want to make sure we get the best-in-class opportunities for anyone across the country who understands the value of being in a city like Chicago.”

That’s likely a nod to Rush Street, which is headquartered in Chicago. Rush Street also owns a significant stake of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, currently the most popular of the casinos in Illinois.

Despite Lightfoot’s comments, it seems more and more likely that Rush Street will land the license. Take away two of the companies that seemed to have interest, and it’s simply a numbers game. It’s in Lightfoot and the city’s best interest to attract as many bids as possible.

What else do we know about the future casino in Chicago?

The project is not just going to be a casino; it will be a resort. That means there will be hotel rooms and an entertainment district surrounding the facility.

At least, that’s what the city wants. More proposals would give the city a better chance to execute its vision.

As of now, we don’t know where in Chicago the casino would be, and that figures to be a crucial aspect of any bidder’s proposal.

There was chatter about putting the casino on the south or west side of the city. Still, operators will likely determine that a location in the heart of downtown has better revenue potential.

Lightfoot said:

“We expect to have a very unique entertainment and gaming experience that you’re not going to find anywhere else in the region. That is certainly our expectation. We’re going to be driving toward that.”

The city hopes to open the casino by 2025. Depending on the operator, there may be a temporary facility built in the meantime.

Proposals are due on Aug. 23, and the city hopes to choose a bid this winter. Though, at this point, there remains doubt as to how many proposals the city will have to choose from.

Photo by John Locher / AP
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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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