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Chicago posts call for long-awaited casino project

The city of Chicago released a highly anticipated request for proposals (RFP) Thursday for a casino license that the Windy City received as part of an expanded gambling law passed two years ago by the Illinois legislature.

A panorama of downtown Chicago at night. On Thursday, city officials released a request for proposals seeking an operator to build a casino in America's third-largest city. (Photo: Petr Kratochvil / PublicDomainPictures.net)In a statement, the city said it wants a resort-casino open by 2025.

We look forward to working with world-class operators to develop a leading entertainment destination that will accelerate the growth of our dynamic economy, create sustainable, well-paying jobs for our employees and bring new financial opportunities to our businesses, "said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

In addition to building a casino in America's third largest city, the winner would also have the chance to place slot machines at both Midway and O'Hare International Airport.

Under the current schedule, interested parties must submit their proposals by 2 p.m. CT on Aug. 23. Proponents will make public presentations of their proposals in late September.

City officials expect to select a winner early next year.

What Chicago wants

Among the city's requirements for a resort casino is a hotel with no more than 500 rooms. It must also include meeting spaces, as well as an entertainment venue, dining establishments and bars.

While applicants will propose locations, the city wants to see what it calls an "architecturally significant" project that will help spur additional business attraction and growth.

Chicago leaders had hoped to release the request for proposals earlier. But officials raised concerns about the high tax rate associated with the casino project. That prompted lawmakers to change the tax structure last year.

In addition to jobs and business opportunities, city officials plan to use the tax revenue generated by the casino to contribute to a retirement fund for Chicago firefighters and police officers. .

While there are many casinos in the Chicagoland area, the winning candidate will be the only one in the city to attract more than 60 million visitors annually.

Who can bid?

When the city issued a request for information last year, it received a preliminary and optional call to determine how much interest there was in the project with 11 responses. Among the casino operators sent were Hard Rock International, MGM Resorts International, Rush Street Gaming / Midwest Gaming and Entertainment and Wynn Resorts.

MGM Growth Properties, a gaming investment fund, also responded, as did four development companies.

Given the size of the opportunity and the exclusivity, several other gaming companies may also consider making a bid. Last month, Lightfoot said it hoped to get a few people with "Las Vegas addresses" involved.

Six of these respondents stated that they would be interested in operating a temporary casino while a permanent resort is built. The request for proposals currently states that the successful operator will be able to operate the temporary site for 24 months while the permanent resort is built. There is also the possibility of one 12 - month extension to the temporary structure as well .

Most said they preferred the location of a permanent facility in downtown Chicago. However, one suggested a site near Lake Calumet near the Indiana border.

Chicago's casino selection process is just beginning

Once the city selects the winning proposal, there will still be plenty to do.

On the city side, the Chicago City Council will need to draft and pass an ordinance supporting the applicant, and the applicant must also hold community meetings to gather input on their proposal and make changes as requested.

The City Plan Commission and City Council Committee on Zoning, Historic Landmarks and Building Standards will also be considered.

In addition, the winner still has to submit an application to the Illinois Gaming Board to ensure they meet the state's licensing standards.

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