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Crucial vote on Chicago casino delayed, as city council members oppose fast-track timeline | 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)

A crucial vote on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to tap Bally’s to build a casino in River West was delayed Friday, as several Chicago City Council members posed officials a wide range of questions about the plan.

Even though Lightfoot formed a special city council committee with his allies to review the casino proposal, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward) acknowledged on Friday that the mayor did not have enough support to move forward with the plan to build a casino and resort on what is now the Chicago’s printing press and press room. Grandstand near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

However, Tunney said he would reconvene the committee and try again on Monday, and urged his colleagues to spend the weekend studying the massive deal between the city and Bally’s as well as the ordinance that would allow casino gambling. in Chicago for the first time in the city. the story.

The Chicago City Council is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Monday. The plan unveiled by Tunney calls for that meeting to be adjourned until 1 p.m., to allow the casino committee to meet and vote on the proposal. That would allow the plan to be sent to the full city council, which could meet at 4 p.m., Tunney said.

After accepting the committee’s recommendation, the matter would be postponed and published until 10 a.m. Wednesday, when a final vote could take place.

Lightfoot said she had no objection to the delay, adding that she was confident the casino proposal would win the support of the Chicago City Council and head to the Illinois Gaming Board.

“It’s a very big decision,” Lightfoot told an independent press conference.

However, Lightfoot made it clear that if the city council wanted to avoid having to raise property taxes in an election year, it had to act quickly. Lightfoot is counting on a casino to boost the city’s economy and funnel about $200 million into its police and fire department pension funds, which will significantly ease the strain on the city’s finances.

“I can’t wait to get a vote, so the revenue starts flowing,” Lightfoot said. “There is a sense of urgency.”

While a temporary casino could open as early as next year, the permanent casino won’t open until 2026 and the city’s feasibility study says it wouldn’t hit $191.7 million until its sixth year. operating.

This unorthodox and nearly unprecedented timeline met with fierce resistance from Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), who again likened the proposal to the ill-fated and much-hated 2008 deal that leased the city’s parking meters – in addition to all meter revenue – to a private company.

“I think we’ve been given false choices here,” Reilly said. “The main thing is that it rushes very quickly.”

Reilly also vehemently opposes plans for a temporary casino at the Medina Temple in River North, which he says would be a beacon for crime.

The proposed casino would be built on the site of the Chicago Tribune's printing and newsroom, near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.  (WTTW News)The proposed casino would be built on the site of the Chicago Tribune’s printing and newsroom, near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street. (WTTW News)

Lightfoot and his top officials touted Bally’s proposal as the most lucrative proposal the city has received and said the casino would be an “iconic” addition to Chicago’s riverfront.

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.

The casino would create 3,000 permanent jobs and 3,000 construction jobs each year, officials said. An agreement with the Chicago Federation of Labor will guarantee these workers the possibility of organizing.

Bally’s will also offer the city an upfront payment of $40 million for the license and $4 million per year. The annual payment will be split in half, with half going to fund public safety initiatives across the city and the other half focused on the area around the casino to improve public safety and mitigate any impact on nearby residents.

Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development, said the casino will help the city recover from the economic disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been particularly brutal on the tourism, shopping and entertainment industries. travel and hospitality.

Bally officials said they would spend more than $75 million on 30 projects designed to ease traffic congestion in River West and River North. Officials also told aldermen the casino would draw less traffic than the city-approved project in 2018, which included mostly office space.

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 told city officials it would meet requirements imposed by city officials that 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 would be awarded to companies. owned by women or black, Latino or Asian Chicagoans.

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