Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot is said to be toying with the idea of where to put the city’s long-awaited casino, following the introduction of Senate Bill 690 which will see Illinois undergo a massive gambling expansion.

Chicago, which is famous for its history, food, and culture has been vying for a casino in the hopes of resolving some of the city’s financial troubles, and giving the place a much-needed economic boost.

But now, the mayor must make a tough decision as to where it will be located, particularly when she originally campaigned for sharing the wealth to penurious neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city. There are a few potential places in mind; one being the 44-acre former steel plant site near the south lakefront.

However, Lightfoot must also decide whether the casino objective is to maximize revenue, or open up new opportunities in the neighborhood – both of which would be equally beneficial.

“It would seem to me that the location should be a mix of the opportunity to maximize revenues to the city and optimizing jobs for people who need them,” said Tom Kirschbraun, a broker for development sites in the region. “I think you can do both. You want to bring as much money to Chicago, which calls for bringing it as close to the center of the city as you can get. The beauty of Chicago is, everybody in the labor force can get downtown.”

Revenue Will Be Used to Tackle State Budget Woes

Though it is not known just how much revenue will come from the new facility, the city will be taking one third of everything generated as a result. Economic development experts say that it’s logical to select a site which people can easily access if they want to maximize revenue; of which should be used to tackle the city’s soaring pension obligations and other fiscal hurdles.

They also say that another site worth considering would be the former Michael Reese Hospital in downtown. Not only is it easy to access, it would also highly benefit the residents of the historic African American community in Bronzeville.

Sophia King, who acts as the site’s alderman said how their constituents aren’t keen on the idea of housing a casino there.

“The community has consistently opposed a casino on the site,” King said in a statement on Tuesday. “The Michael Reese Advisory Committee has honored this strong sentiment and has been diligently working with Farpoint Development on the highest and best use for the land.”

Other Sites Are Being Considered

Other possible areas they have been looking at include the Midwest development site between South Loop and Chinatown; One Central, a transit centre across Lake Shore Drive from Soldier Field, as well as the Lakeside Centre at McCormick Place.

Another less-favored location sits across the Dan Ryan Expressway, and is the former home of a Stateway Gardens crime ring. Though it remains unoccupied, it is much easier to access through the subways more than most other potential sites.

“It’s an area people are already used to going to, and are comfortable going to,” Kirschbraun said.

After the legislative session last week, the General Assembly ruled out the mass gambling expansion in Illinois, which will see the state introduce sports betting and receive another 6 casinos in total; one has been promised to Chicago since talks first began. The new establishment will accommodate up to 4,000 slot machines and gaming seats, plus several bars, restaurants and entertainment amenities.

Once the Senate Bill becomes official in the next few days, the Gaming Board will then be required to have a feasibility study carried out. From there, the appointed firm will have 45 days to complete the study and present them to city officials.

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