Chicago has added one more condition for the winner of the city’s casino licenses, up-front cash, in a not surprising twist of events.
Such requests are not uncommon in the industry, but conditions such as these are typically not made this late in the process. Regardless, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration is asking for $40 million now plus $2 million a year later — or a one-time payment of $75 million.
Potential deal-breaker in Chicago casino deal?
Out of the three finalists, Bally’s Corp. is the only operator known to have made an upfront offer of $25 million. Does that put the Rhode Island-based casino company at the front of the line? Probably not, but it might incentivize the other two — Hard Rock and Rush Street Gaming — to ante up.
In a written statement, the city outlined taxes directly on gaming must go toward city pension expenses. However, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, the city declined to say how it would use the upfront payment.
Per the city’s statement:
“All other revenues and financial incentives will go to the city’s general purposes, which fund essential services such as police, fire, streets, and sanitation, among others. Negotiations are ongoing and (the city) will provide more details once they are available.”
Political advantage for Lightfoot’s re-election in Chicago
Although most residents, politicians, and labor leaders have opposed a Chicago casino, it will be considered a victory if Lightfoot can leverage more money from operators.
Mayors have tried and failed to bring a casino to Chicago throughout the city’s history. Being the first to achieve this goal would undoubtedly increase Lightfoots political clout. It would also look good on a re-election resume.
Chicago casino opposition remains as selection looms
On April 25, during a special meeting held by the Chicago City Council, labor leaders gathered to voice their opinions on the selection process.
Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said:
“We understand that development tourism tax revenue is critical for our city. But to move forward without a commitment to paying living wages and respect workers rights is a slap in the face to the entire labor movement in Chicago.”
Earlier in the month, each of the three finalist held public meetings so residents could voice their opinions. Of the three, Hard Rock Chicago was the first to hold a forum in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood.
While many Chicagoans support an Illinois casino, most would prefer it if it were not in their neighborhood. However, there has yet to be one city official who has actively lobbied for a casino in their community.
Lightfoot will select the winner sometime this Summer. The casino winner must also receive full approval from the City Council. After that, the winning operator must go before the Illinois Gaming Board.