Aldermen on special committee raise concerns about Bally's, Rivers, Hard Rock casino finalists

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez said he does not support Rivers casino in his ward

Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Chicago casinos face sharp criticism in first city council meeting
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Aldermen from the wards where the three Chcago casino proposals are located all had sharp questions and critiques in the city council's first meeting on them Monday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On Monday, aldermen in the wards where Chicago's casino is proposed to go had sharp questions and concerns during a special committee meeting on the finalists.

Neighbors to the proposed sites are worried about what a casino could mean for their communities, but revenue from a casino is a crucial piece of the city's financial future.

The three proposals are sprinkled on the outskirts of downtown.

The members of the special city council casino committee made it clear they intend to play an active role in deciding the project's final location, something that has been in the works for 30 years.s

The three finalists are Bally's Tribune along the Chicago River near Chicago and Halsted, the Rivers 78 just southwest of Roosevelt and Clark, and the Hard Rock Chicago just across DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Soldier Field. All three faced opposition from those wards' aldermen.

"I'm particularly concerned about the effects and costs associated with gambling addiction, the costs associated with taking business away rather than for communities like Chinatown," said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez.

RELATED: Chicago casino could worsen problem gambling, Chinatown leaders worry

The Bally's plan is in Alderman Walter Barnett's ward. He said that he's waiting to see what happens in the special meetings before he will talk more about his support or opposition.

But according to a River North resident's association survey, almost 80% strongly oppose the proposal.

RELATED: Mayor Lori Lightfoot lays groundwork for reelection bid amid concerns over possible casino deal

The administration stressed the urgency for action saying every year a casino is not open the city loses 200 million dollars in direct revenues, much of it going to casinos in Indiana. The city counting on casino revenue to help pay for police and fire pensions

"So if this doesn't happen, if we were to either postpone this or don't do this, what type of burden would that be on the city and then what is our other alternatives to deal with the fiscal challenges that we have?" Burnett asked.

"The only really viable alternative source for the city of this magnitude would have to be property taxes," said Jennie Bennett, Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board and city CFO.

Aldermen also raised concerns about traffic problems in all three areas. City consultants said the Rivers 78 and Bally's Tribune plans, which are part of already approved bigger developments, won't see much change.

"Casinos have a different traffic profile than, say an office profile would, you know it's generally much more oriented around Friday and Saturday evenings, say around 8 to 11 p.m.," said Peter Lemon, transportation consultant.

SEE MORE: Chicago casino bids: 3 finalists announced by Mayor Lightfoot's office

There will likely also be a clearer sense of timeline Monday as to when one of the bids could be approved.

There could be a vote sometime in May or June.