Feb 7, 2024 - News

Chicago to decide soon on Bally's revised plans for River West casino

A drafted rendering of a giant casino complex on the Chicago River.

A draft rendering of new casino design plans. Image courtesy of Bally's

The city of Chicago intends to decide this month whether Bally's revised plans for its River West casino and entertainment complex are a go.

Why it matters: The company is changing course after the city determined its original plan for a hotel could damage water lines, sparking some to call for a deeper review and more community input.

Driving the news: Several city departments are reviewing drafts of revised renderings, which would relocate and resize a planned hotel from a 500-room tower to a three-story, 100-room building.

  • A Departments of Planning and Development (DPD) spokesperson tells Axios that 500 hotel rooms will still be built. The remaining 400 would be located near the casino at a site that's yet to be determined.

Catch up fast: City Council overwhelmingly signed off on Bally's original plans for a casino, hotel, restaurants and theater at the site of the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center in late 2022.

  • Yes, but: Alds. Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly, whose wards border the planned casino, opposed the project at the time, citing increased traffic and potential public safety concerns.
  • Reilly also blasted the process as rushed and lacking transparency. It's reportedly under scrutiny by the U.S. attorney's office and Chicago's inspector general, Crain's reports.

Between the lines: Both the Sun-Times and Crain's published editorials after the new plans were released last month, calling for more public input on the revisions and questioning why the infrastructure issues went unnoticed until recently.

  • Neighborhood representatives and issue experts were shown the revised plans last month and are giving feedback to the city and Bally's, River North Residents Association (RNRA) president Eileen Murray tells Axios.

What they're saying: "The magnitude of the proposed changes certainly merits extensive reviews," Murray says. "Our primary concerns continue to be public safety, strain on infrastructure, and impacts on quality of life in the surrounding community."

The other side: Ald. Walter Burnett, whose 27th Ward includes where the casino is being built, doesn't believe the change requires any additional oversight. "They're just moving the building," he tells Axios.

What's ahead: Once reviewed by city agencies, Chicago's zoning administrator will make the final call on the revisions.

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