Chicago is laying its cards on the table and officially seeking bids to build the first casino in the nation’s third-largest city.
City leaders want a “world-class” resort that’ll draw locals and tourists while boosting Chicago’s finances, but several steps remain.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday, 22nd April 2021, that Chicago is officially seeking proposals to operate a resort that includes a casino, a hotel of up to 500 rooms, restaurants and bars. Whoever gets the license will also get to run slot machines at both of Chicago’s airports. Overall, the operator will be allowed up to 4,000 “gaming positions”, or seats where bets are placed. Under Chicago’s timeline, applicants will publicly present their plans in September, and the winner will be chosen in 2022. Final approval from the city and state gambling regulators is required.
To generate early revenue for the cash-strapped city, the operator will also be allowed to open a “temporary casino” for up to two years at a site of their choice. “The bottom line is to make sure we are getting revenue as quickly as possible,” Lightfoot said at a briefing ahead of Thursday’s announcement.
Chicago leaders believe there’s a “tremendous appetite” for gaming as gamblers slowly return to casinos after coronavirus pandemic-related closures. Estimates on casino revenues vary and Chicago’s plan hit early snags with its tax structure. A 2019 feasibility study by a Las Vegas consulting firm showed it was too onerous to generate much revenue, so legislators approved a change. Union Gaming Analytics then said a downtown casino could bring in about $1 billion annually.
The casino is expected to create thousands of jobs, including in construction, and boost existing businesses. Chicago’s budget for 2021 was $12.8 billion.