Chicago is considering 5 proposed casino sites. You’ll soon get a chance to weigh in on them.

A man plays a slot machine at the MGM Grand Detroit casino in Detroit, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Chicago is considering five proposals to build a casino in the city. Paul Sancya / Associated Press
A man plays a slot machine at the MGM Grand Detroit casino in Detroit, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Chicago is considering five proposals to build a casino in the city. Paul Sancya / Associated Press

Chicago is considering 5 proposed casino sites. You’ll soon get a chance to weigh in on them.

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Chicago residents will soon have a chance to weigh in on the city’s massive plan to build a casino-resort and entertainment space at one of five proposed locations, officials said Friday.

The city plans to hold its first public hearing on Dec.16 for residents to question the three firms behind the five pitches received last month. For now, the city has released top-level details on those proposals as employees from 11 city departments, comprising a “Proposal Review Team,” evaluate them.

The potential sites for a casino include: the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center at 777 W. Chicago Ave., a plot of land south of McCormick Place, the “ONE Central” project site just west of Soldier Field, the “Lakeside Center” building at McCormick Place or on the site of “The 78” — a planned megadevelopment along the Chicago River in the South Loop.

The timeline

Officials on Friday would not give an estimate on when a casino will actually open its doors to patrons in Chicago, but emphasized they plan to work quickly in order to start raking in revenue — an estimated $200 million annually — that will help replenish the city’s underfunded pension funds.

The goal is to send a final proposal to the Illinois Gaming Board for review by “early 2022.” In order to do so, the mayor’s office, after it makes its final choice between the five proposals, will need approval from the full city council.

Here’s what the process in early 2022 will look like leading up to a final vote from aldermen, according to the city:

• Officials will review pitches, negotiate with applicants and “commence required City department and agency reviews.”

• The city will hold follow-up community meeting(s) to present revised proposals.

• The mayor, along with department officials, will select a final applicant.

• The city will then introduce an ordinance to aldermen in support of the finalist.

• The city’s Plan Commission will hold a hearing.

• The City Council Committee of Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards will hold a hearing and vote on the proposal.

• The finalist goes up for a full vote from the City Council.

After that, and if the proposal is approved by the Illinois Gaming Board, casino owners can prop up a temporary site, as it builds a permanent one, for up to two years.

“It’s basically you know, almost like a stand up casino that generates immediate revenues while you’re building out the permanent facility and the permanent facility can take time because it’s a larger complex,” said Jennie Huang Bennett, the city’s chief financial officer.

The sites

Bally’s Corporation — Tribune Publishing Center or McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard

Bally’s proposes building a $1.8 billion casino resort at the publishing site and newsroom of the Chicago Tribune, whose lease expires in 2023.

It would include a 500-room hotel — a priority the city outlined in its request for proposals. The site would also have six restaurants, cafes, a food hall, three bars and a 3,000-seat entertainment venue. The casino would be filled with 3,400 slot machines and 173 table games, according to city documents.

Bally’s submitted a nearly identical proposal, at a cost of $1.6 billion, with a different location — on a plot of land south of McCormick Place known as Truck Marshaling Yard. Similarly, that site would include a 500-room hotel, bars, restaurants and a 3,000-seat venue.

Bally’s would seek to open a temporary casino by retrofitting an existing building adjacent to the Tribune Publishing Center, their proposal says, upon receiving regulatory approval.

Hard Rock — ONE Central development site, west of Soldier Field

Hard Rock wants to build a casino with 3,000 slot machines and 166 table games. It would be located at the so-called ONE Central development site, which would sit on 32 acres of rail yards west of Soldier Field.

The total cost of the resort would be approximately $1.7 billion. It’d include a hotel with “up to” 500 rooms, six bars and lounges, a 3,500-seat “Hard Rock Live” venue, a “rock spa” and eight restaurants.

Hard Rock proposed several sites for a temporary proposal, including the Lakeside Center at McCormick place.

Rivers Chicago — Lakeside Center at McCormick Place

Backed by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, which owns Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the proposal comes in with the lowest price tag at $1.3 billion. Along with its sister proposal on The 78, Rivers’ pitches include the smallest casino plans, with 2,600 slots and 190 table games.

The proposal doesn’t exactly satisfy the city’s request for a new, at least 500-room hotel, but developers say they have “plans to utilize existing 2,900 McCormick Place hotel rooms,

with [the] ability to add 250 or more rooms.”

The site would also include 12 restaurants, 4 bars, and would update the existing, 4,200 seat Arie Crown Theater on site at McCormick Place. The developers boast the “dramatic lakefront setting with outdoor dining, entertainment and other lakeside programming,” as an amenity.

Rush Street wouldn’t plan to prop up a temporary casino, “due to speed to market of [the] permanent” location.

Rivers 78 — north end of South Loop megadevelopment

Rush Street also pitches a casino along the planned megadevelopment on the Chicago River in the South Loop, dubbed “The 78.” Currently, an innovation hub led by the University of Illinois at Chicago is planned for the south end of that site. The casino resort would dominate the other half.

It would cost $2 billion and include 2,600 slots with nearly 200 table games. Also included: a 300-room hotel, 5 bars, 8 restaurants, an observation tower and “Harbor Hall” — a proposed riverfront venue for “live entertainment, culture/arts, and community programs.”

Developers pitch opening a temporary casino on a riverboat as the massive entertainment district gets built.

Mariah Woelfel covers city government at WBEZ. You can follow her @MariahWoelfel.