Skip to contents

Who Wants To Run Chicago’s Lone Casino? City Officially Opens Up The Bidding

The license will allow the winner to operate a temporary casino for two years before moving into a permanent location and holding the rights to operate slot machines at the city's two airports.


CHICAGO — City Hall put the call out Thursday for companies wanting to operate a casino in the city, giving them until late summer to submit proposals for a gaming complex with a hotel, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and meeting space.

The city also laid out the planned timetable, estimating a permanent casino should be ready to open by 2025, although the winner will be permitted to operate a temporary casino for up to two years.

Those interested in applying for the city’s lone casino license have until August 23 to respond to the city’s “request for proposal,” or RFP, and the city wants them to provide public presentations by late September.

The city will then kick off a community outreach process to narrow the field before selecting a winner in “early 2022.” The chosen operator must then be approved by the Illinois Gaming Board and navigate the city’s zoning process, including heading to the Plan Commission, zoning committee and full City Council for approval.

The license will allow the winner to operate the temporary casino, move into a permanent location and have the rights to operate slot machines at Chicago’s two airports.

The city is requiring applicants to include a “casino-resort with 500 hotel rooms or less, meeting space, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and more.”

Applicants must also meet the city’s goals around inclusion for minority (26 percent) and women (6 percent) owned businesses and job opportunities for city residents, representing 50 percent of the total work hours.

The city is betting a new entertainment district anchored by a casino will improve the city’s struggling finances. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was “beyond excited” to take the next step towards landing a casino, which would not be expected to open in its permanent location until well into her potential second term.

“We look forward to collaborating with world-class operators to develop a premier entertainment destination that will catalyze growth in our dynamic economy, create sustainable, good-paying jobs for our workforce and bring new financial opportunities to our businesses,” she said in a press release.

The city is hoping potential players will cash in on the area’s role as a “global gateway city with 9.5 million residents” and its pre-pandemic 61.5 million domestic and international visitors in 2019.

The city has yet to identify a location for the casino, but Lightfoot has said she hopes the project will anchor an entertainment district to lure visitors and compete with nearby casinos in Rosemont and northern Indiana.

In December, Crain’s reported the groups interested in bidding on the casino project prefer to build it Downtown.

The interested players, including familiar gambling ventures MGM, Hard Rock, and Wynn, as well as active Chicago real estate developers Related Midwest, and DL3 Realty were responding to a request the city put out surveying what potential operators would look for when building the casino, Crain’s reported.

Eight of nine respondents identified a preference for location in or near Downtown, according to Crain’s.

In conjunction with planning for the casino, the city has launched a web portal to provide additional information.