Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot has announced that the city has shortlisted three bidders to progress to the next stage of the bidding process for the city’s sole casino license. The shortlisted three, which include one from each gambling team, are Bally’s Corporation at the Tribune Site, Hard Rock at the ONE Central Site, and Rivers 78 at the 78 site. With those bids making the shortlist, both bids sited at McCormick place have been eliminated. More details about the three shortlisted bids can be found below:
Bally’s Corporation – Tribune Site
Bally’s Corporation has proposed a $1.74 billion casino project and hotel on a portion of the current Tribune Publishing Plant. The plan expects the casino to offer 3,400 slots and 173 games, while the hotel tower will deliver 500 hotel keys. The proposal includes a host of amenities and programs beyond the casino and hotel including a 3,000-seat theater, an Immerse Agency exhibition experience, a sports museum, an extension of the Riverwalk, a pedestrian bridge, an outdoor park, an outdoor music venue, an amenity terrace featuring a large pool spa, fitness center and sun deck, and six restaurants, cafes, and a food hall.
Bally’s has projected the development will add 9,750 construction jobs and 2,002 permanent casino jobs. The bid calls for a temporary casino to open in Q2 2023 with the permanent location anticipated for Q1 2026.
Hard Rock – ONE Central Site
Also coming in at $1.74 billion, the Hard Rock Chicago bid is planned for the southern end of the ONE Central site. While still under the planning phase, ONE Central is a large megadevelopment planned to cap the rail lines between McCormick place and Museum Campus along the lakefront. Slightly smaller than Bally's plan, Hard Rock Chicago will offer space for 3,000 slots and 166 table games. The hotel portion of the plan will also offer 500 rooms.
This new destination would include a 3,500-seat Hard Rock Live venue in partnership with Live Nation, a Hard Rock Music and Entertainment experience, a “Rock” spa, rooftop space, outdoor green space, several restaurants, cafes, and a food hall, and six bars and lounges.
The bidder has projected the development will add 16,607 construction jobs and 3,140 permanent casino jobs. Hard Rock expects the temporary casino to open in Q2 2023, and the permanent casino in Q3 2025. As reported by Crain’s, Hard Rock originally looked to use space at McCormick Place for its temporary location, but is revisiting that plan and looking to use a different location.
Rivers – 78
A collaboration between Related Midwest and Rush Street Gaming, Rivers 78 plan the development of a $1.62 billion casino project on the northern portion of the planned “The 78” megadevelopment. As the smallest casino plan, the proposed space would accommodate 2,600 slots and 190 table games. The hotel portion would hold just 300 rooms.
Located along the Chicago River just south of W. Roosevelt Rd, the plan will include a dramatic riverfront plaza with an observation tower reaching 1,078 feet high. Further space will include a Harbor Hall multi-purpose riverfront venue for live entertainment, culture, arts and community programs with rooftop space and eight restaurants, cafes, a food hall, five bars and lounges.
The development will add a projected 3,410 - 4,375 construction jobs and 3,068 permanent casino jobs. Rivers plans to open a temporary casino on the 78 site in Q2 2024, and the permanent location in Q4 2025.
Each finalist will now participate in a round of community engagement meetings, offering an opportunity for public comment. Following this public engagement, the city will continue discussions with the shortlisted teams and the engagement and negotiations will become the basis for the city’s selection of a winning team.
Once a finalist is selected, a comprehensive host community agreement memorializing the agreed upon terms will be prepared. The host community agreement will then be evaluated by an Aldermanic special committee. All of the City Council will be involved in the process for the final recommendation. The formal development process will begin following City Council approval and approval from the Illinois Gaming Board.