Chicago City Council Members Share Mixed Reactions to Temporary Casino Proposal – NBC Chicago

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Some Chicago City Council members had an opportunity to ask questions Monday about plans for the city’s first casino, with some raising concerns about the casino’s temporary location in River North.

The city announced last week that Bally’s will receive its only casino license. The entertainment company plans to build a $1.74 billion casino on part of the site of the current industrial Tribune Publishing Center in the River West neighborhood.

While it may take up to three years for the building to be completed, people will have somewhere to go before then.

Bally’s will open a temporary casino at Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave., the former location of Bloomingdale’s Home Store, until the Tribune location can be upgraded to a permanent location.

“This temporary downtown location will bring visitors to a part of the city that needs increased economic need and dynamism due to the impact of the pandemic,” said Samir Mayekar, Chicago Deputy Mayor.

It was clarified on Monday that the location can continue to serve spirits despite the lack of a license.

“We will not be lifting citywide alcohol moratoria,” Mayekar said. “Certain facilities such as hotels, restaurants, sports stadiums and casinos are exempt from moratoria, in line with the guidelines.”

In addition to a casino, Bally’s overall project will include a 3,000-seat theater, extend the Chicago Riverwalk and pedestrian bridge, and add a 500-room hotel.

At a news conference Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed concerns about the temporary location.

“Bally’s has made a $5 million commitment to provide security around the temporary casino site. In addition, we will support this with our charitable dollars,” she said.

A special committee of the City Council met virtually to discuss the project and ask questions.

“In this process, my goal and should be everyone’s goal is to make sure this deal involves as many people as possible for our city,” Ald said. Jason Ervin of the city’s 28th Circuit and vice chair of the committee. “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

Another council member opposed to the temporary casino, Ald. Brendan Reilly of the city’s 42nd Ward questioned whether a crime and safety analysis had been conducted.

Officials estimate that a casino could bring in $2 million annually in tax revenue for police and fire department pensions. Bally’s said it will spend more than $75 million on multiple projects to reduce the area’s traffic challenges and invest in security at both its temporary and permanent casinos.

Ultimately, the Illinois Gaming Board and the entire City Council still have to approve the project.

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