Chicago invites applications for first land-based downtown casino resort

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Chicago is all set to welcome its first land-based, downtown casino with a request for proposal issued by the city this week for the opportunity to apply for the sole casino license in what is the country’s third-largest metropolitan market. 

The selected partner will be able to propose its optimal site for the project, pending the approval by the city, with a view to launching a new casino resort by 2025. The holder of the Chicago owner’s license will be able to operate a temporary casino for up to 24 months (subject to a 12-month extension) and, thereafter, a permanent casino located in the city. 

In addition to a casino, the gaming enterprise also will have the opportunity to operate slot machines at Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). All applicants selected through the RFP process then must apply to the state for the owner’s license and meet the state’s licensing requirements.

Chicago Mayor Lori E Lightfoot explained: “After years of planning, we are beyond excited to begin the RFP process for Chicago’s first casino. We look forward to collaborating with world-class operators to develop a premier entertainment destination that will catalyze growth in our dynamic economy, create sustainable, good-paying jobs for our workforce and bring new financial opportunities to our businesses.”

The Chicago casino project currently is one of the country’s most attractive casino-resort development opportunities. A global gateway city with 9.5 million residents, Chicago welcomed 60 million domestic and 1.5 million international visitors in 2019. 

The potential gaming operator will be able to incorporate its property into the city’s vibrant cultural scene, robust public transit infrastructure and highly diversified economy. Additionally, a significantly lower tax rate was made available to a potential operator due to the passing of Public Act 101-648.

The RFP’s core project goals dictate that the project should create well-paying jobs and new employment opportunities, as well as plentiful apprenticeships and training programs for Chicago’s residents, while supporting utilization and participation of Chicago-based businesses. 

Policy makers have also stipulated that gaming tax revenues generated for the city by the new casino resort will be dedicated to funding Chicago police and fire pension obligations.