Lightfoot unveils short list of potential casino sites with 5 South, West Side locations

Consulting group Union Gaming has 45 days to envision a potential casino in Bronzeville, Pullman, South Chicago or North Lawndale

(Credit: iStock, Lori Lightfoot)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and an aerial view of Chicago's South Side (Credit: iStock, Lori Lightfoot)

After staying quiet for months, city leaders appear to be following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s suggestion to place a new Chicago casino away from Downtown.

The city will hire a consultant to study four South Side locations and one site on the city’s West Side as potential homes for the 4,000-seat gaming venue planned under a sweeping state gambling bill passed earlier this year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday.

Las Vegas-based Union Gaming will have 45 days to issue a revenue forecast for a prospective casino on each of the five sites, which include the former Michael Reese Hospital campus in Bronzeville. The firm will also look near Harborside International Golf Center in Pullman, the intersection of Pershing Road and State Street in Bronzeville, Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue in North Lawndale and the 440-acre South Works site along the city’s far south lakefront.

Lightfoot added the study is not designed to select a site but rather to “determine the impact on financeability” of building in each location.

Before the city makes a final decision, officials will solicit community input through an online survey followed by a series of town hall-style meetings, Lightfoot said.

Bronzeville Alderman Sophia King (4th) has tried for months to quash speculation that Farpoint Development, the firm chosen by the city to redevelop the Michael Reese site, could include a casino in its 100-acre Burnham Lakefront project. She reiterated her opposition to the idea Wednesday, saying casinos are “known to have deleterious impacts on existing communities, especially communities of color.” She went on to call the prospect of a Bronzeville casino “appalling and offensive.”

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But redevelopment prospects look dimmer for the massive South Works site, which has sat empty in the South Chicago neighborhood since U.S. Steel shuttered its plant there in 1992. Last year, Dublin-based Emerald Living became the second developer to walk away from a plan to build an entire new neighborhood on the land, leaving its future in doubt.

The Pullman location would sit among multiple new developments planned by nonprofit Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, which is headquartered at 111th Street and Doty Avenue.

David Doig, president of the development firm, said a Pullman casino would be a “huge benefit for the Far South Side.” The project could potentially encompass a “destination resort” with a hotel and restaurants to accommodate golfers while leaving neighbors alone, he said.

“I think you’d have unanimous community support, unlike some other sites, which are more inside a neighborhood,” Doig said. “In this case you have Lake Calumet on one side and the (Bishop Ford) Expressway on the other, so it wouldn’t be conflicting with other land uses.”

And Pershing and State is near the site of the demolished Stateway Gardens public housing complex, as well as the P.S. Bronzeville mixed-use redevelopment proposed by McLaurin Development.

Late last year, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested building a casino on the city’s Southeast Side, saying it would draw gamblers from neighboring Indiana.