City of Chicago Pares Five Casino Candidates Down to Three Finalists

City of Chicago Pares  Five Casino Candidates Down to Three Finalists
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A trio of casino plans out of five entrants were chosen as finalists to build Chicago’s first city limits casino-resort by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday.

Bally’s Illinois, Rivers 78 and Hard Rock were named as finalists in the quest to build a gaming facility in the Windy City.

Only one of casino magnate Neil Bluhm and his Rush Street Gaming’s two submissions — Rivers 78 Gaming, LLC — was named a finalist.

Lightfoot chose one bid from each of the three companies that submitted proposals to the cities but did not decide on an overall winner, allowing the three finalists to jockey for such an honor in the future.

Bally’s Illinois was the lone applicant that would operate its own casino, with Hard Rock International running HR Chicago’s bid.

Rush Street Gaming would operate the Rivers 78 operation on the city’s South Loop.

The city of Chicago has one casino license available, part of the state’s 2019 gambling legislation. In December, despite lobbying by Bluhm, Chicago repealed its ban on sports betting.

In March, fully remote registration became legal for mobile Illinois sports betting.

Where Would Each of the Finalists’ Casinos Be Located?

The trio of Chicago casino finalists plan on building facilities in various parts of the Second City, ranging from the South Loop to Chicago Avenue and the outskirts of Soldier Field.

Rush Street Gaming’s Rivers 78 property is proposed for Clark Street and Roosevelt Road along the South Loop. Bally’s would be located near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

Hard Rock would build their gaming facility in conjunction with the One Central project that’s located near the historic home of the Chicago Bears.

The two projects that were eliminated from contention were plans from RSI and Bally’s for the McCormick Place convention center.

In a statement, Lightfoot said the three finalists “best fit the core goals we want to achieve. Our teams look forward to heading into discussions with the finalists and getting one step closer to bringing this decades-old project to fruition.”

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Where Chicago’s Casino Blueprint Goes from Here

Lightfoot and the city’s leadership are planning on holding public hearings in early April to determine which of the three finalists will get to build the city’s first casino-resort.

Those hearings are tentatively scheduled for the week of April 5 and will fall under the purview of Zoning Committee Chairman Tom Tunney.

A final decision on the future of Chicago’s first casino-resort will be determined sometime in the summer, city officials said.

Revenue projections from Union Gaming, which served as an outside consultant for the city, project tax revenue ranging from $174.2 million (Rivers 78) to $192 million (Bally’s) — with all figures pegged six years after opening.



Christopher Boan is a lead writer at specializing in covering state issues. He covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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