South and West sides picked for possible casino site

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Navy Pier, McCormick Place not on list

Crusader Staff Report

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has picked five sites on the South and West Sides to test as possible locations for Chicago’s new casino in a move that reaffirms her commitment to rebuilding the city’s struggling, overlooked neighborhoods.

Two months after Illinois lawmakers passed a historic gaming bill that would create six new casinos throughout the state, Lightfoot on Wednesday, July 17, selected four sites on the South Side and one site on the West Side as test sites to host Chicago’s new casinos.

They are “Harborside” at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway; the former Michael Reese Hospital site at 31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue; a site at Pershing Road and State Street, which was formerly public housing; Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue; and the former U.S. Steel parcel, known as South Works, which is between 79th and 91st streets along South Lake Shore Drive.

The casino will have up to 2,000 seats, tables and slot machines. It will have up to 4,000 casino positions.

City officials said the sites have previously been considered for a casino or other large-scale developments.

“While a Chicago casino had been talked about for more than 30 years, today we are moving forward to ensure the new casino is viable for Chicago and all of its communities,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Thanks to our partnership with Governor Pritzker, Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and other state leaders, together we are advancing a shared vision for new revenues that will benefit Chicago’s severely underfunded pension funds, while generating new jobs and economic opportunity for communities across the city.”

Pritzker, who has a mansion on the city’s North Side, said he wanted to see the casino site located away from downtown, saying that it could drive economic recovery and create jobs in areas that have been “left out and left behind.”

As part of the testing process, a state-hired consultant will study the economic feasibility of the sites and report findings to the state and city. But city officials stressed that the casino may not end up at one of the five spots, which it characterized as test sites.

The third-party expert, with experience in regulations, operations, and gaming industry economics, will evaluate all relevant factors and report to the Illinois Gaming Board, the Illinois General Assembly, and the City of Chicago. This study is required under the recently enacted legislation prior to developing, commissioning and operating a new casino in Chicago.

Union Gaming was selected through a procurement led by the Illinois Gaming Board and consented to by the City of Chicago. The Illinois Gambling Act requires the Illinois Gaming Board to select a consultant with the City’s consent within 10 days of the bill becoming law. The consultant then has 45 days to complete its revenue forecast and to deliver its findings to the state and the city.

Prominent downtown sites like McCormick Place, Lakeside Center and Navy Pier were not on the list despite their high visibility and potential for a flourishing, successful casino.

The new casino is the result of a sweeping new gaming law that Governor Jay B. Pritzker signed after Illinois lawmakers approved it at the end of the spring session.

In addition to Chicago, Waukegan, a south suburb, Williamson County, Rockford and Danville will all get new casinos under the new law, which will also bring slot machines to O’Hare and Midway Airports and new sports betting licenses to racetracks and casinos.

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