Lightfoot launches casino advisory council for Bally’s project

Group will field concerns from local residents

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, Maurice Edwards, Robin Schabes, Julie Darling and rendering of Bally's Chicago casino (Linkedin, Central Advisory Council, Getty, Bally's)
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, Maurice Edwards, Robin Schabes, Julie Darling and rendering of Bally's Chicago casino (Linkedin, Central Advisory Council, Getty, Bally's)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed a 19-member advisory group to address local concerns about Bally’s new casino.

The mayor’s move is in an effort to stay ahead of pushback from residents living near the casino’s future site along the Chicago River, the Chicago Tribune reported. The committee will be overseen by the city’s planning and transportation departments.

“The primary focus of this CAC is to secure community input on the development of the entire permanent site,” a release said. “However, the Casino CAC will also consider issues related to the operation of the temporary site as they are applicable to the future permanent casino project.”

The committee will meet with the mayor and the city’s chief financial officer quarterly to discuss community concerns.

Those living close to the proposed site, which is currently the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant, have expressed concerns about traffic, crime and gambling addictions. Ald. Brendan Reilly has also spoken out against setting up a temporary casino site at the Medinah Temple.

Multiple aldermen also opposed the formation of the committee, seeing it as a way for Lightfoot to stack it with allies that would vote on zoning and licensing issues for the casino without having to go through the specific committees for each issue.

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Nevertheless, the city council approved the committee in a 41-7 vote.

The River North Residents Association, which represents almost 23,000 people living near the proposed site, found that 86 percent of the 2,311 surveyed were against the casino.

The committee will include Robin Schabes, volunteer chair of the development and land use committee; Maurice Edwards with Cabrini-Green LAC Community Corporation; Julie Darling with the West Loop Community Organization; and John Bosca with Neighbors of River West.

The remaining 15 members are “issue experts” that include representatives from Urban Rivers, the Active Transportation Alliance, the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Metropolitan Planning Council.

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— Victoria Pruitt