Bally’s submits two offers for Chicago casino, including McCormick Place proposal criticized by alderman


Bally’s Corporation plays two-handed in the high-stakes game to win a Chicago casino, and the East Coast gambling company says it doesn’t care which one wins.

Either of their offers – among five submitted to Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month – would wake up one of the “sleeping economic giants” they see as potential sites, executives said this week. Rhode Island based company.

One Bally’s proposal is already encountering strong opposition from a South Side city councilor whose cards have been on the table for years against setting up a casino in his Bronzeville neighborhood.

Their other offer is greeted with open arms by another member of city council who says the site of the River West plant that currently prints Chicago’s two major dailies would be an “ideal” site for a casino operator essentially to start with. to print money.

Wherever the chips fall, the company says it would invest heavily with investments totaling $ 1.6 billion for the big city casino complex that Lightfoot is banking on to shore up depleted police and police pension funds. Chicago fire department.

“We don’t have a preference on the site,” said Chris Jewett, director of business development for Bally’s, who submitted two of the five casino proposals currently under review by the Lightfoot office. “We think they are both sleeping economic giants.”

One of those giants is the 28-acre truck yard south of McCormick Place, near DuSable Lake Shore Drive and 31st Street.

Ald. Sophia King (4th) pictured at a January 2019 city council meeting.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

It is also adjacent to the former site of the Michael Reese Hospital being redeveloped – an area that Ald does. Sophia King (4th) has long declared banned the potential development of the casinos that the mayors of Chicago have coveted for a generation.

King said in a statement that the truck yard “should be immediately removed” from the review.

“From the start of this process, the community has clearly expressed their desire not to see a casino built on the site,” she said.

King said she was “open to the goals of using this new source of revenue to help Chicago meet its crushing fiscal responsibilities,” but asserted that “it should not be done at the expense of our communities, in especially those who are marginalized “, including those who are predominantly black. room.

Bally’s manager, Wanda Wilson, said “we will discuss this with the alderman and hope to find common ground.”

“We had a lot of meetings [with community groups] and we will continue to meet with everyone in the community to make sure we are successful, ”Wilson said. “Certainly, I’m not trying to put something in a neighborhood that is not acceptable to the community. “

Bally received a warmer welcome from Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), whose neighborhood includes the Freedom Center at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, which is referred to in the company’s other offering.

Artistic representation of a casino project that would be located near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

Artist’s impression of a proposed casino that would be located near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.
Provided by Bally’s Corporation

“It would be a great location for a place like this, from a tourism perspective,” Burnett said. “It’s right next to the highway. L station on Grand [Avenue] brings lots of tourists to the area on their way to Navy Pier.

“I haven’t assessed the community on this yet because it’s too preliminary, but I think it would bring a lot of jobs to the neighborhood,” he said.

For both deals, Bally’s said they would launch a temporary casino site adjacent to the Freedom Center while a permanent structure is built.

If their River West bid wins, it would mean the demolition of the factory, which houses the Chicago Tribune newsroom and prints this newspaper along with the Chicago Sun-Times and others.

The factory is owned by Nexstar Media Group and is leased by Tribune Publishing. A Nexstar spokesperson said Bally’s had an option to buy it.

Representatives for Tribune Publishing and Alden Global Capital – the hedge fund that took control of the Tribune earlier this year – have not returned messages seeking comment on their future printing plans.

Chicago Tribune Freedom Center, located at 560 W. Grand Ave., in the River West neighborhood.

Chicago Tribune Freedom Center, located at 560 W. Grand Ave., in the River West neighborhood.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Jewett said they were considering “very similar” amenities at the two potential sites: a luxury hotel, indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, green spaces, fine dining and a “Chicago Sports Museum.”

The company says minority investors will make up 25% of the ownership group, including philanthropists, business owners and “a few sports stars,” Jewett said.

Bally’s faces three other proposals to obtain the Chicago casino license.

Two of these competing deals are backed by billionaire Neil Bluhm and his company Rush Street Gaming, one slated for the Lakeside Center in McCormick Place and the other on the vacant South Loop lot known as “The 78” near Roosevelt Road and Clark Street.

The fifth offer comes from Hard Rock International, which wants to innovate as part of the One Central development project that would be located just across DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Soldier Field. Representatives declined to disclose further details.

Lightfoot’s office said it would create “a review board made up of a representative sample of city departments” to recommend a bidder. The mayor wants the completed casino complex to open its doors by 2025.

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