Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced there are five potential locations for Chicago’s first casino last week. All the locations are located in the South and West Side.
“While a Chicago casino had been talked about for more than 30 years, today we are moving forward to ensure the new casino is viable for Chicago and all of its communities,” Mayor Lightfoot said in a statement.
The mayor tasked an independent consultant to survey the sites for their economic feasibility. The five sites submitted to be tested are:
- Harborside (111th and the Bishop Ford Freeway).
- The former Michael Reese Hospital (31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue).
- Pershing Road and State Street.
- Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue.
- The former U.S. Steel parcel (80th and Lake Shore Drive.
“Thanks to our partnership with Governor Pritzker, Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and other state leaders, together we are advancing a shared vision for new revenues that will benefit Chicago’s severely underfunded pension funds, while generating new jobs and economic opportunity for communities across the city,” the mayor said.
Though Lightfoot is optimistic that the casino will be a boon to Chicago’s most underserved communities, not everybody is excited at the prospect of the new casino.
3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell and 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King voiced their opposition to the initiative, saying that the potential sites located in their wards (Pershing & State and the former Michael Reese Hospital, respectively) were off limits.
“Casinos are known to have deleterious impacts on existing communities, especially communities of color,” King said in a statement. “They siphon all of the inviting amenities that sustain vibrant communities.”
She continued, “The juxtaposition of a casino in the historic Bronzeville community is appalling and offensive given the deep and storied African American history in Bronzeville. It would be like putting a casino in Harlem.”
Dowell’s feelings also echo her fellow alderman. “We never anticipated being one of the sites,” Dowell said in an interview after the announcement. “We need grocery stores and retail and jobs.”
She later released a statement on Wednesday saying, “A casino would not be appropriate for the site at Pershing Road and State.”
Lightfoot has not ruled out building the new casino closer to downtown. However, she says she has received pushback from event organizers who fear that a casino would draw away from other tourist attractions.
“There are some concerns, I think, with a downtown site, and we wanted to avoid that in this first instance,” Lightfoot told reporters. “Rather than deal with that noise now, and it will have to be dealt with down the road, we [selected] other sites that are primarily controlled by the City of Chicago.”
Last month, Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Illinois gambling expansion bill into law. The bill allows for six new casino licenses, including one mega-casino in Chicago. The Chicago casino allows up to 4,000 gambling positions.