Chicago Casino Development Concerns Are Discussed in Community Meetings

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has left three front-runners for the multibillion-dollar casino project in Chicago – Bally’s, Rivers, and Hard Rock. The developers behind the bids of these three giants will hold community meetings with residents in South Loop, Near South Side, and River West to discuss all of the concerns.

Bally’s is Modifying Its Proposal to Meet the Standards

When the three finalists were announced on March 22, the city of Chicago reiterated the importance of one component which stated that the selected casino must have a minimum of 25% minority investment.

Although Bally’s included this part in the plan, it was criticized for tweaking it to a point where these minority investments can be bought off by the casino after six years. The heavy scrutiny caused the brand to change its plans and Bally’s chairman, Soo Kim, stated that the plans were modified in a way that minority shareholders will have the option to sell their shares after six years, but only if they want to.

One additional point of concern is the location where the casino will be built – along the Chicago River. Friends of the Chicago River, which is a non-profit organization that wants to improve the waterway thinks that both proposals (Rivers 78 and Bally’s Tribune) will change the character of Chicago’s remaining river edge sites.

The organization’s executive director, Margaret Frisbie, stated that the river is a “place for people and wildlife” and they do not go side-by-side with a casino. Although she says that Friends of the Chicago River does not want the casino to be built along the river, she would support new designs that would include natural riverbanks and urban forests.

Hard Rock Casino is In a Complicated Situation as Well

Hard Rock Casino, whose plan includes an outdoor green space, a music venue with 3,500 seats, and a 500-room hotel, is in a complicated situation. The reason why is that this project relies on $6.5 million worth of public funding by the state. The development, called One Central, hasn’t been approved so far.

However, Landmark Development’s Bob Dunn stated that the $1.7 billion casino project can move on, regardless of whether the public funding is approved or not. This claim was also backed by Hard Rock International’s CEO, Jim Allen, who stated that the casino funding would go via private loans and corporate coffers.

To make matters more complicated, the casino, on its own, would need tons of approvals. That includes the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, Illinois Department of Transportation, and Metra. Residents also issued their concerns over traffic and noise and stated that the quality of life in that neighborhood might be threatened.

78% of Area Respondents Do Not Support Rivers 78 Casino

Rush Street Gaming, which lost its Rivers McCormick bid, is still in the game with its $1.62 billion casino at The 78. According to the plans, a temporary casino would open in Q2 of 2024 and the permanent casino will be open in Q4 of 2025.

However, a survey by The 78 Community Advisory Council found that 78% of the 400 area respondents were actually against the development of the casino. Some of the concerns that they raised were related to increased traffic and crime.

Curt R. Bailey, the president of Related Midwest discarded the survey by stating that it is too small for a sample. He also addressed the concerns over increased crime by stating that crime gravitates towards places with less activity, less security, and less lighting.

Bailey also stated that change in this part of Chicago is inevitable, regardless of whether the casino will be built or not. He also added that the site will be much more than just a casino. He thinks that it is a project that will change “the face of Chicago.”

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