Chicago City Council members share mixed reactions to temporary casino proposal – NBC Chicago

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

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

Although the building could take up to three years to construct, people will have a place to go long before that.

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

“This temporary downtown site will bring visitors to a part of the city that needs increased economic need and vibrancy due to the impact of the pandemic,” said Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor of Chicago.

On Monday, it was clarified that the site will still be able to serve alcohol even if it is unlicensed.

“We will not be lifting any alcohol moratoria across the city,” Mayekar said. “Certain establishments are exempt from moratoriums such as hotels, restaurants, sports stadiums and casinos, in accordance with the policy.”

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

At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot raised concerns about the temporary location.

“Bally’s has made a $5 million commitment to security around the temporary casino site. On top of that, we will be supporting this using our community benefit dollars,” she said.

A special committee of city council met virtually to discuss the project and ask questions.

“In this process, my goal and should be all goals is to make sure this deal is as inclusive as possible for our city,” Ald said. Jason Ervin of the city’s 28th Precinct and vice-chairman of the committee. “It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

Another board member who opposes the temporary casino, Ald. Brendan Reilly of the city’s 42nd Precinct asked if a crime and safety analysis had been conducted.

Officials estimate that a casino could bring in $2 million a year in tax revenue for police and fire pensions. Bally’s said it would spend more than $75 million on several projects to alleviate traffic problems in the area and invest in security for temporary and permanent casinos.

Ultimately, the Illinois Gaming Board and the full city council still have to approve the project.

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