The bidding process continues for Chicago’s proposed downtown casino.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot opened the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States on Monday by highlighting her city as an opportune location for a new Illinois gambling facility. Downtown Chicago is one of six sites allowed to construct a casino after Gov. JB Pritzker signed a gaming expansion package bill into law in June 2019. The new law does not include Illinois online casinos.
“For interested owners and operators, our city truly provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a casino and entertainment district in a major American city,” Lightfoot said. “I’m looking forward to reviewing the proposals that come in.”
In April, the city announced it would begin taking proposals. The application window will close next month, with finalists to be announced next year.
Keeping Money in Illinois
The new casino project is scheduled to debut by 2025. Lightfoot highlighted how it would create new jobs and billions of dollars in gaming revenue for the city and state. According to her, a casino in the downtown area would limit Illinoisans’ desire to travel elsewhere to gamble, keeping money in the state instead of bordering areas such as Indiana.
“We want to make sure that we get the best-in-class opportunities for (any operator) across the country that understands the value of being in a city like Chicago,” she said. “This is a significant milestone in both our city’s history and our journey with COVID-19 as an entertainment district like this will reap numerous rewards for our city’s economy.”
More gambling options, especially in Chicago, make sense. Since debuting, the IL sports betting market has become one of the biggest in the U.S. It finished second behind New Jersey for total sports handle in May.
Lightfoot also highlighted how the winning bid would provide sustainable jobs with good-paying wages for its employees. The new casino must also provide more employment opportunities for other Chicago area businesses. Lightfoot also stressed the importance of the facility being an “integrated casino resort.”
“What we envision is a world-class entertainment district, anchored by a casino but also providing other amenities so that our tourists and residents can take advantage of a first-class gaming experience,” she said.
Rush Street Gaming was seen as a potential favorite to land the downtown license. The company is based in Illinois and Rush Street Interactive has a casino in Des Plaines, which is currently the closest casino in the state to Chicago. It also operates IL BetRivers, one of the top sports betting sites in the state. But Lightfoot squashed any ideas Rush Street would have an advantage during the bidding process.
“There’s a little conversation about this, I’m told,” she said. "This RFP 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.”
Rivers Casino is one of the top revenue generators in the state. According to the numbers released by the Illinois Gaming Control Board, Rivers accounted for more than half of the $21.4 million in tax receipts in June. Rivers has produced almost $200 million in adjusted gross revenue for 2021 and more than $50 million in taxes to the state and city.