Chicago Casino License Winner Expected To Be Announced In 2022

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on December 8, 2021

At long last, the winner of the highly coveted Chicago casino license is expected the be announced.

On Dec. 16, the city council will meet to hear proposals from the five bids submitted at the end of October. Following what will surely be a lengthy discussion, a winner is expected to be chosen early next year.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants the winner selected by the first quarter of 2022. At this point, the winning operator would apply for a license with the state gaming board.

In the spirit of competition and all things gambling in Illinois, let’s rank the proposal in order of likelihood of acceptance.

Rivers 78

Rush Street Gaming has two bids on the floor. The first, Rivers 78, would be located in the South Loop near Chinatown in ‘The 78′ megadevelopment site.

This $1.6 billion property would sit along the Chicago River and feature 2,600 slot machines and 190 table games. There would also be a 300-room hotel complete with bars, restaurants, a food hall, and an observation tower.

This proposal also comes with a temporary casino site in the form of a riverboat.

Rivers Chicago McCormick

The second Rust Street proposal would cost $1.3 billion and be located at the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place.

This facility would be home to 2,600 slot machines, 190 table games and 12 restaurants and cafes. Developers have said a temporary casino would not be necessary since repurposing the convention center would take less time.

Construction at McCormick Place would be the least expensive of the five proposals and would take only a year to complete. This project might be the most appetizing to lawmakers because it would get the tax dollars flowing sooner.

Bally’s Chicago Tribune Publishing Center

This casino would be located near Halsted and Ohio street in the River West area of the city. Bally plans to transform the newspaper publishing site into a casino with 3,400 slot machines and 173 table games.

There would also be a 70,000-square foot3,000 seat entertainment venue. The entire project would cost around $1.7 billion. Developers also mentioned the space would come with a rooftop, bars, lounges, pools, and a Bally Sports Bar and Chicago sports museum.

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Bally’s McCormick Place

Like Rush Steet’s plan, this casino resort would instead be at the current Truck Marshaling Yard near McCormick Place. It would cost $1.6 billion and have a similar footprint to Rivers’ design. There would be 2,600 slot machines, 190 table games and 12 restaurants and cafes.

Hard Rock One Central

The final proposal comes by way of Hard Rock and is the most expensive of the bunch.

The project would need $6.5 billion in state financing and be located at the One Central development south of downtown Chicago. However, One Central has yet to receive city or state approval.

The 35-acre location near Soldier Field would cost Hard Rock $1.7 billion to complete. The casino would feature 3,400 slot machines, 166 table games, and a 500-room hotel. Additionally, there would be bars, restaurants, a spa and a state-of-the-art entertainment venue.

Who has the upper hand?

Although each proposal comes with massive pros and cons, this is a one-horse race. There is no way Rush Street Gaming lets another developer set up shop in their backyard. Thus, it is Rush Street’s race to lose. 

But crazier things have happened.

Photo by Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock
Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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