Residents got their first opportunity to react to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan for Bally’s to build Chicago’s first casino, putting officials on the defensive in the process.
The Bally’s Corporation plans to build a $1.7 billion hotel and casino in the city’s River West neighborhood, locating the building on a portion of the site of the Chicago Tribune publishing plant.
The site will include a 3,000 seat theater, an extension of the Chicago Riverwalk, more than 500 hotel rooms, an outdoor music venue and space for 3,400 slots and 170 table games, according to officials.
The deal with Bally’s has drawn criticism from both officials and from the public.
“I’m tired of broken promises,” one resident said. “So we are asking for jobs and contracts.”
Bally’s projects the development will bring more than 3,000 construction jobs and more than 3,000 permanent casino jobs, with union jobs making up at least some of that number.
The company has also agreed to commit to 60% minority hiring, and will target neighborhoods with the highest levels of unemployment in the city, according to city officials.
“We made the promise that we are going to be good to labor and underrepresented groups, and make sure that we’re good to everyone,” Bally’s Corporation Chairman Soo Kim said.
Residents are also pushing Bally’s to come up with a safety plan, helping to keep areas around the casino safe.
“We are tired of these young kids with guns in their hands attacking innocent people,” one resident said.
Bally’s said that they would coordinate safety efforts with Chicago police, vowing to spend at least $5 million annually on security.
“The reality is, being hosted by Chicago, is a responsibility and it’s just the beginning of a long relationship,” Kim said.
City leaders say that they hope that the relationship will be a long-lasting, and a positive, one.
“This casino project is critical to the city’s financial stability, a recurring source to pay for police and fire pension funds,” Chicago’s Chief Financial Officer Jennie Bennett said.