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Chicago City Council votes 41 to 7 to approve Bally’s River West Casino | Chicago News

Bally’s casino and resort would be built on what is now the Chicago Tribune’s print shop and press room near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street. (Provided)

The Chicago City Council voted 41 to 7 on Wednesday to participate in Bally’s plan to build a casino in River West, capping a 30-year odyssey and handing Mayor Lori Lightfoot a significant victory as she prepares to run for a second term in Chicago. mayor.

The $1.73 billion proposal now heads to the Illinois Gaming Board, which must authorize Bally’s to operate the casino to be built along the Chicago River near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

The casino and resort would replace what is now the Chicago Tribune’s print shop and press room, forcing the newspaper to relocate its operations.

Aldus. Sophia King (4th Ward) recused herself from the casino vote because her husband is a partner at a law firm involved in the casino case.

“I understand that people have to stand up for their communities,” Ald said. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) said. “But we have to defend the whole city. The government does not operate on hopes and prayers.

Members of the city council’s progressive caucus said they reluctantly voted for the casino plan, criticizing the rushed and unprecedented process to hold the final vote on Wednesday. Several said Lightfoot’s deal to earmark Bally’s upfront $40 million payment for the city’s underfunded police and fire department pensions won their support.

But Ald. Brendan Reilly (Ward 42) and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) said they don’t think the casino will help stabilize Chicago’s finances, while Ald. Michele Smith (Ward 43) opposed the changes the casino is sure to make to the environmentally sensitive Chicago River.

“I did the math on that,” Reilly said. “It does not suit me.”

Aldus. Walter Burnett, whose 27th arrondissement will house the casino and resort, urged his colleagues to support the casino.

“We have to do something,” Burnett said.

Even if revenue projections don’t materialize, whatever the casino generates will be “better than nothing,” Burnett said.

Ahead of Wednesday’s crucial vote, city council members heard impassioned pleas from representatives of Chicago’s powerful hospitality unions, who said the 3,000 construction jobs the casino is expected to create each year and the 3 000 permanent jobs were desperately needed in an industry that has yet to recover from the economic disaster unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For weeks before the vote, Lightfoot urged city council members to act quickly and allow revenue to start flowing from a temporary casino at the Medinah Temple in River North as early as next year. A permanent casino could open as early as early 2026.

Lightfoot is expected to run for office and will no doubt point to her success in bringing a casino to Chicago in three years after former mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel failed for 30 years. Lightfoot successfully convinced state lawmakers to overhaul the tax structure of a Chicago casino in May 2020.

Bally’s was one of three companies to submit a proposal to build a casino in Chicago in November, and appeared to have the favored path in the win-win contest after a study by the city’s gambling consultant found that Bally’s Casino would be the most lucrative for the city and its sister agencies, raking in $191.7 million in its sixth year of operation.

Bally’s is the only one of the three finalists not to operate another nearby casino, prompting the company to maximize its efforts to bring gamblers and revelers to their Chicago casino and resort, thereby increasing the revenue share of the city, according to this study.

Bally’s will also offer the city an upfront payment of $40 million for the license and $4 million annually, the mayor’s office said. Initially, Bally’s offered the city an upfront payment of $25 million.

Bally’s also signed an agreement with the Chicago Federation of Labor to ensure construction and casino workers are allowed to unionize. In addition, the casino firm has promised that 60% of the jobs created by the casino will be filled by black, Latino or Asian workers.

Bally’s will also create a jobs program specifically targeting Chicago neighborhoods with the highest unemployment rates and lowest incomes, according to the mayor’s office.

Lightfoot is counting on a casino to boost the city’s economy and inject about $200 million into its police and fire department pension funds, significantly easing the strain on the city’s finances, while creating thousands of jobs and attracting tourists – and their big wallets.

The $1.73 billion casino is said to have 3,400 slot machines and 173 table games. The station would have six restaurants and cafes in addition to a food hall and three bars and lounges. It would also include a 3,000-seat, 70,000-square-foot concert hall and a 20,000-square-foot event venue in addition to outdoor bars, lounges and pools along the Chicago River.

Bally’s put together a consortium – the Chicago Community Builder’s Collective – of design and construction companies owned by Black, Latino and Chicago women to work on the project.

Bally’s officials told city officials they would meet requirements imposed by having 25% of the facility be owned by black, Latino or Asian shareholders, 50% of its employees be from Chicago and at least 26 % of construction contracts go to businesses owned by women or Black, Latino or Asian Chicagoans.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]