Lightfoot Extends Casino Application Deadline As Caesars, MGM Withdraw
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Friday she was pushing back the bid deadline to build a much sought-after casino in Chicago as the city seeks to attract more developers to the table.
Proposals for the mega-casino were expected on August 23, but interested parties now have until October 29, giving groups “more time to fully assess” the opportunity and “put together more competitive offers,” according to the Lightfoot office.
“The extension of the deadline for interested bidders will allow the City to garner as many strong, impactful and transformative proposals as possible,” the mayor said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing these offers come and working closely with the team ultimately chosen to develop Chicago’s very first casino.”
The Lightfoot office said “several potential bidders have requested additional time.”
But operators have had more than two years to mull over the potential big-city cash cow, which was cleared as part of a massive state-wide gaming expansion signed in 2019 by Governor JB. Pritzker.
After winning a legislative fix in Springfield to lower a tax rate that a state-hired consultant deemed “too onerous” for a casino operator to make a profit, Lightfoot issued a formal request for proposals in April.
The latest two-month delay could signal a lack of interest in what some industry experts still see as a risky proposition, even after the sky-high tax rate was lowered from an effective rate of around 72% to 40%. Executives from corporate gaming giants MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have already announced they will hand over the project.
“I have no interest in Chicago,” Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said on a quarterly call with investors earlier this week.
MGM expressed interest in the prospect of the casino last summer as one of 11 groups that responded to a non-binding request for information from the city, but last month CEO Bill Hornbuckle said: “Chicago is just complicated. History there in Chicago, the tax, and the notion of a large-scale integrated resort don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
City officials did not say how many proposals were submitted, if any.
Another group that has shown interest is a joint venture between developer Related Midwest and Rush Street Gaming, the latter chaired by billionaire Neil Bluhm and which already operates Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the most lucrative gambling establishment. from Illinois.
A potential bid from this group – with little competition – could put Lightfoot in a political stalemate. Bluhm’s daughter Leslie and sister Meredith Bluhm-Wolf have donated over $ 200,000 to the Lightfoot campaign fund.
Rush Street is also in the running for the construction of a new casino in Waukegan.
Some analysts believe Rush Street will offer a casino for the downtown development site known as The 78, among 62 vacant acres southwest of Roosevelt Road and Clark Street.
Lightfoot leaves it up to the developers to suggest locations. His office said he would choose “one or more qualified applicants” and hold community meetings until the end of the year, before negotiating “host community agreements” with these potential developers.
The choice of Lightfoot would then be subject to City Council approval. The Illinois Gaming Board has the final say on licensing. The mayor said she expects the finished casino complex to open by 2025, though an operator may move to a temporary site once the developer gets approval from the State.
There are already 10 operating casinos in Illinois and five more in the pipeline, not to mention four more in Northwest Indiana, including the Horseshoe Hammond which is a half-hour drive from the city Hall. This is in addition to more than 40,000 slot machines operating in bars, restaurants and other establishments in Illinois.
City officials argue there is room to “grow the pie” or increase the size of the gaming market. In 2019, Union Gaming consultants found that per capita spending on games in the Chicago area was half that of other metropolitan areas.
“The Chicago Casino Project is currently one of the most attractive casino resort development opportunities in the country,” said the Lightfoot office.
Contributing: David Roeder and Fran Spielman