The possibility of casinos bringing increased traffic, rising crime and declining property values in the River West neighborhood were among the concerns of city officials and developers at a sometimes tense meeting at City Hall on Thursday night.
Hundreds of people attended the event at the University of Illinois at Chicago to learn more about it Bally’s offer of a $ 1.7 billion casinoreconstruction of hotels and entertainment facilities at the Freedom Center Chicago Tribune.
The forum caused controversy as people’s comments took more than 90 seconds and their microphone was muted, causing others to shout from the crowd. Some audience participants accused the city of bypassing public feedback by choosing a final proposal before a special city council committee made a recommendation.
A group of Bally’s representatives, mayors and a representative of the Chicago Police Department were present.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is in Texas for election and official events, but she appealed to participants in a video address thanking them for their interest in the proposal and promoting it as a plan that will financially boost Chicago.
Bali’s proposal is expected to bring the city about $ 200 million in annual tax revenue – although some have questioned the claims. And such advertised benefits can do little to reassure nearby residents who are wary of moving the gambling complex to the neighborhood.
But the main topic of many commentators was, as one neighbor said, “Casinos are just not a place in a residential area, period.” She called her neighborhood next to the proposed location “quiet, stable and family”.
Jill Funfsin has lived across the river from the proposed casino location for about 14 years. She decided to visit the forum on Thursday to be more informed about the project, which she fears will bring extra noise, movement and light to what was a quiet community.
“I just hope they hear people,” Funfsin said before the meeting, “that they don’t just do it in words.”
Others raised questions about predatory marketing and gambling addiction, asking Bally’s and city officials how they plan to alleviate the addiction. One person from Illinois’s Stop Predatory Gambling asked Bally’s if they were willing to ban ATMs on playgrounds to reduce addiction. He cited studies that have shown that addiction to games leads to an increase in the number of people suffering from depression, divorce and other problems that affect people.
“No income of the city is worth the well-being of the people,” he said.
A spokesman for the Chicago Hospitality Workers’ Union, which represents many immigrant workers and colored women, said many people in the area still do not work after being fired during the pandemic. She hopes the project will begin so that people can be offered good work that will allow their members to support their families.
There were also signs of compromise: speakers questioned a pedestrian bridge plan that would link the entertainment complex to a nearby residential area, prompting Bally’s chairman Su Kim to say he would abandon that part of the plan.
Last week, Lightfoot announced it had decided to promote Bally’s offer before four other bids. It is still needed approved by the city executive committee then the Illinois Gambling Council. The developer aims to open a temporary casino in about a year and launch a permanent location by 2026.
Bally’s signed a letter of intent to create its temporary location in the iconic building of the Temple of Medina, at 600 N. Wabash Ave. on River North, a choice that has already pushed him own neighborhood opposition, including from local ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Chamber. He called the idea “monstrous” and also expressed concern about the recent decree allowing alcohol to be served inside a temporary casino.
Some residents near the proposed permanent location also strongly opposed Bally’s offer at every turn.
The River North Residents Association, which represents nearly 23,000 people living near the proposed Bally site, has expressed concern about the crime, traffic, security, noise and use of the Chicago River, with more than 86% of the 2,311 respondents opposed the casino. .
The entertainment complex plans to have a hotel tower with 500 rooms, a theater with 3,000 seats, an open-air music venue, six restaurants and a casino with 3,400 slots and 170 gaming tables.
The Bally plan calls for the demolition of the 41-year-old plant and the relocation of the Tribune printing house to make room for the construction of a permanent casino.
The casino has the option to buy 30 acres of Freedom Center from Dallas-based Nexstar Media Group, which acquired it in 2019 as part of the $ 4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, the former main broadcaster of Tribune Publishing.