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US – City of Chicago receives five casino proposals

By - 1 November 2021

Five proposals have been submitted for consideration in developing a world-class casino-resort and entertainment experience in Chicago with the goal of being awarded the city’s sole casino owner’s license.

The City of Chicago received a total of five proposals. Bally’s Corporation submitted two proposals for two different sites; its casino operations would be self-managed. HR Chicago, LLC submitted a proposal for a single site; its casino operations would be managed by an affiliate, Hard Rock International. Rivers Chicago at McCormick, LLC submitted a proposal for a single site; its casino operations would be managed by Rush Street Gaming, LLC. Rivers 78 Gaming, LLC submitted a proposal for a single site; its casino operations would be managed by Rush Street Gaming, LLC.

The selected proposal will have the exclusive opportunity to own and operate a casino-resort in the country’s third-largest metropolitan market.

“We are thrilled to have received five high-caliber proposals from Bally’s Corporation; HR Chicago, LLC; Rivers Chicago at McCormick, LLC; and Rivers 78 Gaming, LLC,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “The submission of bid responses represents a major step toward the thoughtful development of a casino-resort that uplifts our businesses, employs and empowers our residents and encourages tourism. We look forward to the next phase of discussions to bring this world-class entertainment experience to our city.”

An initiative three decades in the making, the Chicago casino remains one of the country’s most attractive casino-resort development opportunities. A global gateway city with 9.5 million residents, Chicago welcomed 60 million domestic and 1.5 million international visitors in 2019. The selected bidder will be able to incorporate its property into the City’s vibrant cultural scene, robust public transit infrastructure, and highly diversified economy.

Chicago is one of the world’s most dynamic cities and this license represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a casino operator in the heart of a major American city. 

The holder of the Chicago owner’s license has the opportunity to operate a temporary casino for up to 24 months (subject to a 12-month extension) and, thereafter, a permanent casino located in the City. Applicants selected through the RFP process then must apply to the state for the owner’s license and meet the state’s licensing requirements.

Now that RFP responses have been received, a review committee made up of a cross-section of City departments will determine the recommended winning bidder. This recommendation will be made by the review committee to Mayor Lightfoot who will ultimately make the determination with City Council approval.

Bally’s Corp would spend $1.6bn on developing Bally’s Chicago, a world-class entertainment destination resort. The casino, hotel, and entertainment venue will be Bally’s flagship property and showcase the best of Chicago in its programming.

“Chicago is a dynamic, world-class city, which is why we are committing to make a $1.6 billion investment in establishing Bally’s Chicago as our flagship, and the only property in its class in the Chicagoland market,” said Soo Kim, Bally’s Chairman. “This property will be built, owned, and operated by Chicagoans, with a focus on minority and women investors, contractors, suppliers, consultants, and employees. It will generate tax revenue, create good-paying jobs, and attract international, national, and local visitors for generations to come.”

Bally’s has proposed two potential sites, both of which it views as economic sleeping giants for the City’s and the communities’ consideration: The Chicago Tribune Publishing Center, located on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, and the McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard. The Tribune site is within walking distance to shopping, restaurants, and other cultural attractions and easily accessed by public transportation. The McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard creates an entertainment destination that connects Chicago’s convention hub with the vibrant, predominantly African American Bronzeville community and would turn the underutilized site into a significant source of tax revenue for the City.

To be built in two phases, the $1.0 billion first phase will feature 2,700 slot machines and 95 table games, with ample room for significant expansion of gaming space and / or other amenities; a 100-all suite luxury hotel; an outdoor music venue for performances seating 500 to 1,000, as well as green space for relaxation and recreation; dining options curated by James Beard award-winning chef Paul Kahan’s One Off Hospitality; and pop-up entertainment by local artists.

Upon achieving our expected investment return threshold on Phase 1, Bally’s Chicago will expand its footprint with an additional $600m investment to add up to 4,000 total gaming positions; a fully-built 400-room hotel tower with a rooftop pool and bar; an amenity terrace featuring a larger pool, spa, fitness center, and sun deck; a 3,000-seat flexible indoor entertainment venue that can accommodate large performances, smaller meetings, and private events; a 20,000-square foot exhibition space with both a Chicago sports museum and rotating immersion exhibits curated by Immerse Agency; and an expanded food and beverage program with additional large-format restaurants, including an Erick Williams’ led fine-dining steakhouse.

In response to the City’s request that a temporary facility operate while the permanent facility is being developed, Bally’s Chicago intends to operate a temporary facility adjacent to the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center site. The site, its amenities and experience, will introduce visitors to the Bally’s Chicago brand and serve as a precursor to the permanent facility.

Bally’s intends to leverage the airport visitation by utilizing a portion of the available 4,000 gaming positions allocated to the project and will work with the City to right-size the number of positions to be placed at O’Hare and Midway airports.  We believe that, properly marketed, the airport visitation will capture incremental customers for Bally’s Chicago and generate additional tax revenue for the City.

Chicago native and Bally’s Director Wanda Y. Wilson said: “From design and build to operations and ownership, Bally’s Chicago is committed to providing meaningful leadership roles, well-paying jobs, and investment opportunities for all Chicagoans—especially MBE/WBE/VBE/DBE-certified firms and minority and women residents.  I have spent my career in gaming, and am proud to be a director and investor in Bally’s. Its commitment to innovation, culture and diverse ownership makes it a leader in the industry. Everyone knows the Bally name, and that global recognition will attract visitors to Bally’s Chicago.”

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