RIVER WEST — Chicago is making big plans to open a world-class casino — but none of the aldermen representing potential sites want a gambling mecca in their neighborhood.
Aldus. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) is the latest councilman to say he doesn’t want a casino because Bally’s is pushing to open the Tribune Publishing site in his neighborhood. Burnett’s comments follow Alds. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who is facing casino offers from Rivers, which is targeting The 78 megadevelopment, and Hard Rock, which is aiming to open near Soldier Field.
Burnett told Block Club on Wednesday that he “really doesn’t want to be bothered” by a casino.
“I really hope they don’t pick my area,” the veteran alderman said. “…No one wants to be in that position because you’re doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t.”
Bally’s, Rivers and Hard Rock were the three finalists chosen last month by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to host Chicago’s first casino. Earlier this month, Sigcho-Lopez said he “can’t support” a casino at 78; Dowell said she couldn’t stand a Monday.
Neighbors living near the prime waterfront site in the Burnett neighborhood have largely rejected Bally’s plan. At a River West meeting with 500 neighbors in attendance earlier this month, most said they didn’t want a casino in the neighborhood.
Despite the opposition, Burnett said at the time that he believed he had said a “silent majority” supported the plan.
Nearly 80% of 1,926 neighbors who responded to a River North Residential Association poll also oppose Bally’s plan, executives said. How a casino would affect crime, traffic, and property values is at the heart of their concerns.
Bally’s $1.7 billion casino proposal for Tribune Publishing site along the Chicago River features state-of-the-art amenities: 3,000-seat entertainment center, 500-room luxury hotel, museum , a public green space and a 2,100-foot extension of Chicago’s Riverwalk. The casino itself is said to include 3,400 slot machines and 173 gaming tables.
Bally’s site would also bring the most tax revenue to the city of the three finalists, casino executives promised, citing up to $192 million in annual tax revenue.
Burnett recognized that the city needed a casino to pay its police and fire pension obligations. If Bally’s River West plan is chosen, he can handle it, he said.
“I always listen to everyone — residents, owners, everyone,” Burnett said. “But if they choose my areas, I’m not necessarily going to oppose it.
… Really, most of us really don’t want to care… so if it’s not happening in my area, that’s fine.
Burnett said it’s difficult to gauge whether residents support a casino until a site is chosen.
“At the moment, people who want it aren’t saying anything,” he said.
Leaders of the River North Residential Association said less than 13% of neighbors surveyed supported the plan.
Responses to the River North survey were sent to Lightfoot’s office and its casino committee, said Brian Israel, president of the River North Residents Association.
The investigation will remain open and the results will be continuously updated until the final decision is made, Israel said.
If given the go-ahead, Bally’s would have a temporary casino operational in a year and the permanent building ready to open in three years, casino executives said.
Bally executives said traffic studies conducted on the site show there would be a 60% reduction in morning rush hour traffic if the casino was built. They also argue that properties surrounding casinos have proven to be “some of the safest areas” and can lead to economic prosperity for the surrounding neighborhood.
Listen to “It’s Alright: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”:
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