As poker hands go, the city of Chicago was dealt a promising opener for suitors to build a downtown casino: two pairs and a wild card.
The city announced Friday it had received five bids in response to its Request for Proposals (RFP) issued in April. The deadline was originally established in August, but extended earlier in the summer to allow potential applicants additional time to construct bids that incorporated the city’s wish list.
The selected bidder will be exclusively operating a casino-resort that would likely include retail sports betting in the third-largest market in the country and obtain the ability to offer gaming positions at the city’s two airports, O’Hare International and Midway International.
“We are thrilled to have received five high-caliber proposals from Bally’s Corporation; HR Chicago, LLC; Rivers Chicago at McCormick, LLC; and Rivers 78 Gaming, LLC,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot in a statement. “The submission of bid responses represents a major step toward the thoughtful development of a casino-resort that uplifts our businesses, employs and empowers our residents and encourages tourism. We look forward to the next phase of discussions to bring this world-class entertainment experience to our city.”
We received proposals from:
🎲HR Chicago, LLC
🎲Rivers Chicago at McCormick, LLC
🎲Rivers 78 Gaming, LLC
The selected proposal will have the exclusive opportunity to own and operate a casino-resort in the country’s third-largest metropolitan market.
— Ryan Johnson (@Ryan_Johnson) October 29, 2021
Three gaming companies submitted bids, with Rush Street Gaming — co-founded by Chicago native Neil Bluhm — submitting two proposals for single sites called Rivers Chicago at McCormick and Rivers 78 Gaming. Rush Street co-owns Rivers Casino with Churchill Downs International in Des Plaines, which is 16 miles from the mayor’s office and also the top revenue generator among the 10 casinos currently operating in Illinois.
Bally’s, which has undergone a dramatic transformation and period of acquisitions over the past two years that includes a rebranding from Twin Rivers, also submitted two bids for two different sites that would be self-managed. Bally’s purchased Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island in the northwest part of Illinois for $120 million in October 2020 prior to its rebranding.
The other bid was submitted by Hard Rock International, which was somewhat of a surprise considering it opened Hard Rock Northern Indiana in Gary — less than an hour’s drive from downtown Chicago — this May and is currently constructing a casino in Rockford, another of the six Illinois locations granted casino licenses in the gaming expansion bill Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law in June 2019.
The state’s 10 casinos have generated nearly $865 million in adjusted revenue through the first nine months of the year, resulting in close to $162 million in tax revenue. That figure, though, is overshadowed by profits originating from video gaming terminals (VGTs), which are banned in Chicago. VGT revenue has totaled more than $1.8 billion in 2021, with state tax receipts totaling more than $623 million.
Illinois also has received $47.9 million in sports betting tax receipts through the first eight months of 2021 via $319.4 million in operator revenue from more than $4 billion in wagers placed.