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Bally’s Casino in River West is the choice of Mayor Lori Lightfoot for the Chicago Gambling Complex – but it’s not done yet – Chicago Tribune


The gaming complex in Chicago River West is now officially elected mayor by Lori Lightfoot for a long-awaited license for the city’s casinos – an event that could boost Chicago’s finances, impact future mayoral elections and change the neighborhood.

Lightfoot has decided to promote the development of casinos, hotels and entertainment, worth $ 1.74 billion, in the Freedom Center Chicago Tribune. Bally’s Rhode Island, which owns and operates 14 casinos in 10 states, hopes to make it the flagship of its network.

Although there are still many hurdles before anyone can bet on blackjack tables on Grand Avenue, the mayor’s deal to commit to a casino in Chicago is one of its goals when it goes to the expected bid on re-election.

Clearly joyful Lightfoot won the ad, noting that former mayors have been trying to get a casino for decades. Mayor Richard M. Daly has repeatedly tried to get a Chicago casino, Lightfoot said, but the state legislature “had no appetite” to help the city.

“We did it,” Lightfoot said.

The casino, Lightfoot said, is sending a signal of Chicago’s ongoing economic recovery after it was hit by COVID-19 and civil unrest. And, she said, it’s the best alternative to Indians who go to Indiana to gamble.

“Sincerely, Hoosiers, Chicago’s money should be spent in Chicago,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said Bally’s has succeeded for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they have no competing casinos in the Chicago region and have reached a peace agreement with the Federal Labor Service of Chicago.

“We are confident that the development of the Bally’s Tribune publishing center will strengthen the city’s pension funds, create thousands of well-paid jobs and lead to a bright financial future for our city,” she said in a press release. year and 3,000 permanent jobs at the casino.

The complex will include an exhibition hall, a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, an open-air music venue, six restaurants and, for gambling, 3,400 slots and 170 gaming tables, Lightfoot reported.

But she and the developers still need to convince most Aldermans, the Illinois Gambling Council and vigilant neighbors before the deal is done.

If approved, Bally’s aims to open a temporary casino near the second quarter of 2023, and a permanent casino will open in the first quarter of 2026. Several speakers representing labor and other interests spoke about how the project could secure a much-needed job — the impact of COVID-19 in the city, especially in the hospitality industry, where the impact of the pandemic was severe.

The process of approving the city council can be difficult. Some elders are probably complaining that they did not give more say in choosing the winner. Others may give up because of aversion to gambling or traffic concerns. But Lightfoot will argue that casinos are making high taxes less likely in the future, and this post is likely to appeal to aldermen who don’t like just raising property taxes.

Soo Kim, the 47-year-old chairman of Bally’s and co-founding partner of New York-based hedge fund Standard General, the casino’s largest shareholder, attended the announcement Thursday. He welcomed the news but acknowledged the problems.

“We understand all the promises that this casino allows to keep the city of Chicago and Illinois, and we accept and bear those responsibilities,” Kim said. “We are happy for the future. And to understand that this is really just the first step. Now you need to go and express your case to the city executive committee. “

Kim, who noted he was in high school when Chicago made its first failed casino run in 1992, shortly after Illinois legalized gambling on river vessels in the state, paid tribute to the value of a 30-year search for the city while enjoying from this opportunity to develop your gambling campaign.

“We are very excited about the economic prospects for us, Bally’s Corporation,” Kim said. “I think we’ll be fine.”

While this will provoke some opposition, Chicago’s casino has the potential to help the city’s long-term financial position and give Lightfoot a major political victory if it heads into its election campaign. As mayor, Lightfoot struggled to advance her legislative agenda in Springfield, and the casino bill is a critical exception.

In 2020, Lightfoot successfully pushed lawmakers to authorize a Chicago casino, giving it a victory that had eluded mayors for decades. Lightfoot has also succeeded in its efforts to change the structure of taxation to make the casino more attractive to potential bidders. Even with these changes, the city is struggling to attract interest from strong strikers in the gambling industry, but three firms submitted five applications for consideration by the city.

After presenting five competing casino bets last year, Lightfoot said it wanted “to get the finalist to recommend (the Illinois Games Council) sometime in the first quarter of next year.” This goal has not been achieved as the city has announced plans to hold a series of community forums, giving Lightfoot more time to reveal his choices to the public.

If most aldermen prefer Lightfoot’s choice, he will go to the state gambling council to vote up or down on whether to issue a license to a casino developer in Chicago. The city hopes to use casino funds to bolster pensions associated with budget holes that it is likely to repeat throughout the process.

Bali plans to use the former warehouse of Tribune Publishing, once intended for residential and office buildings, as a temporary casino, while the Freedom Center will be demolished and a permanent facility built.

But before that happens, city leaders are likely to face fierce resistance from some neighbors in the area, where in recent decades other industrial spaces and parking lots have been replaced by residential buildings.

Ald. Walter Burnett, whose ward will host the project, took criticism at a new conference on Thursday, saying it would be irresponsible not to support the casino, as otherwise it would lead to higher property taxes.

However, members of the North River Residents Association are actively involved in the casino selection process, attending meetings, speaking to the press, making public statements and conducting public opinion polls with the same message – Bally’s Casino, Hotel and Entertainment Complex is not the right fit for River West.

“The game is not over yet,” said Brian Israel, president of the residents’ association, adding that it was only one step in a longer process, adding that the group would lobby the council to reject the plan.

“Chicago is a big American city,” Israel said. “And we think it could be better than that.”

He said the association was disappointed with the lack of transparency and the short timing of the selection process, and said the mayor’s office should work more with city council members when they make decisions about the casino proposal.

“We believe that the proposed development is the wrong project for this site. Our organization is definitely not against development, ”Israel said. “We have been working for 25 years with many developers and the city to review and recommend changes to dozens of developments across the district, and we always want development to be conducted in a way that develops the community and takes into account its impact on all stakeholders. But, unfortunately, the same cannot be said about this project. “

Alan Miretsky, a 12-year-old River North resident who lives very close to where the casino will be built, said he did not understand why Bally’s location was a favorite when other finalists’ proposals seemed to have less of an impact on housing areas.

“Honestly, I’m terrified of it,” Miretsky said. “We didn’t sign up for it when we moved here.”

The movement in the area, which is of concern to Miretsky, “is already terrible … so it will get worse,” he said, adding that he did not know any residents of the area who support the plan.

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