City Officials, Experts Weigh the Pros and Cons of 5 Chicago Casino Proposals

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city officials are considering their options after receiving five different proposals for a casino that would be built within city limits, with three of those proposals centering around McCormick Place on the city’s lakeshore. The proposals are located in several different areas. One proposal would construct a casino over the Metra tracks, located on the transit service’s Electric Line, that run adjacent to Soldier Field. Two more proposals would be centered around McCormick Place, including one that would potentially transform the old Lakeside Center that the facility rarely uses. Another proposal would put a casino near Chicago Avenue and Halsted, while the fifth would be centered around Roosevelt and Clark. While the casino project is one that Chicago officials have been spending years pushing for, some experts warn that revenue from the project may not be what officials are expecting. “It’s not what it used to be,” Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA, said. “It used to be that you could build a casino and there was a 75-or-80% chance of it being successful. Nowadays, you’re talking about a 60-to-70% chance that you’re going to get a 10% return.” The winning bidder will also receive a lucrative contract to place slot machines at both of Chicago’s airports. While some have pushed for the Metra track site to win out, hoping that it could potentially attract more tourism, as well as enticing the Chicago Bears to remain in the Windy City, others look at the McCormick Place redevelopment as a potential win for the city. “Sometimes we have to accept these ideas, which seem a little out of left field,” Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago said. “This could be a remarkable site if it were tied to an industry that has a lot of support.” The winning bidder could also open a temporary casino for up to 24 months before the permanent site is ready, under terms of the bill that passed the Illinois legislature that paved the way for the Chicago casino license. It is unclear when the casino project would be completed once the winning bid is chosen, but Lightfoot hopes that the casino would open by the year 2025.

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