Mayor Lightfoot Sees Chicago Casino Being Apart Of A Larger Entertainment District

Craig Dellimore
May 27, 2020 - 11:55 am

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Now that the Illinois legislature has cleared the way for a Chicago casino to be established, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she anxious to get working on formulating the plans.

Mayor Lightfoot flatly refuses to even hint where a Chicago gaming operation might be located, but she said her administration will be looking at the results of studies, surveys, and focus groups as it determines where and what format a Chicago casino might be. But she is certain of one thing, she expects the casino to be apart of a large entertainment complex.

"I see this as a large entertainment district, not just a box of a casino. In order for us to maximize this once-in-a-generation opportunity that the General Assembly has given us and maximize the opportunity for revenue, for jobs, long-term economic viability as a city, and of course to address our pension debt, we have to be thoughtful and intentional about what we are designing, so it’s something that attracts people from all over the world," Lightfoot said.

"That’s what I see. Chicago is a global city. We need a world-class entertainment district in which a casino is a part, but not the entirety of the part. So there is a lot of work that needs to be done between now and then, and we are anxious to get started."

According to the Sun-Times, before adjourning its extraordinary pandemic session, the Illinois General Assembly authorized the tax-and-fee fix desperately needed to make a Chicago casino economically viable and attractive to a developer.

Lightfoot burned the phone lines to make it happen.

She hailed the victory as “decades in the making” and called it a “critical step toward shoring up” Chicago’s grossly-underfunded police and fire pension funds and generating the revenue needed to bankroll infrastructure projects in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45 billion construction plan.

On Tuesday, the Mayor was asked where the casino might go and how soon could it be up and running.

“I’m never gonna talk about ‘where.’ I’ve been very clear about that. I’m not gonna speculate about that and I’m not gonna fuel the speculation,” the mayor said.

Lightfoot said the next step is for Governor Pritzker to sign the bill.

According to the Sun-Times, last summer, City Hall put its cards on the table by asking a consultant for the Illinois Gaming Board to study five sites on the South and West sides for their ability to attract financing.

The five sites were: Harborside Golf Course site at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway; the former Michael Reese Hospital at 31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue; Pershing Road and State Street; Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue; and the former U.S. Steel parcel at 80th Street and Lake Shore Drive.

At the time, Lightfoot cautioned Chicagoans not to get “fixated” on those five sites because the list was “not definitive.”

She has acknowledged a downtown site like McCormick Place East, Navy Pier, or the Thompson Center was not “off the boards,” but said those sites were excluded from the study because of opposition from the convention and tourism industries.