Proposed Chicago Casino Gets New Community Advisory Group

After months of rejection from neighbors of Bally’s proposed casino site along the Chicago River, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday unveiled a 19-member advisory group to “enable community stakeholders of all kinds to have a significant impact before, during and after the construction of the casino. ”

The casino’s Community Advisory Board, which will be overseen by the city’s planning and transportation departments, the mayor’s office and the chief financial officer, “will meet quarterly to discuss the project and resolve issues raised by members of community,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. Release.

“The main objective of this Casino CAC is to obtain community feedback on the development of the entire permanent site; however, CAC Casino will also review issues related to the operation of the temporary site as they are applicable to the future permanent casino project,” the statement read.

Bally’s proposal has yet to be approved by the Illinois Gaming Board, but the company has taken initial steps to set up its temporary casino in River North, with hopes to open in the second quarter of 2023. The company hopes to open the permanent site at the beginning of 2026.

Community engagement around the proposed site — in what is now the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center print shop — has been strained at times, with neighbors worrying about crime, traffic, safety, noise, and of the use of the Chicago River, and other concerned Chicagoans. promised job creation and gambling addiction. Local alde. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, and others have also spoken out against Bally’s plans to set up his temporary site at the Medina Temple.

Several aldermen also opposed the creation of a special city council casino committee stacked with Lightfoot allies who would have the right to vote on any zoning, licensing, public health, traffic and financial issues related to the casino, which would normally go to various board committees responsible for these specific concerns. But the plans received the backing of city council in May in a 41-7 vote.

This week, Crain’s Chicago Business reported Washington, D.C.-based Stop Predatory Gambling and Illinois in Action churches have written to the state’s gambling council urging them to conduct a “full and thorough investigation” into Bally’s claim, which they say presented “major shortcomings” and a “lack of candor.”

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The River North Residents Association, which represents nearly 23,000 people living near the site of the proposed permanent casino, surveyed neighbors and found that 86% of 2,311 respondents opposed the casino.

The association’s Robin Schabes, volunteer chair of the land use and development committee, is now a member of the advisory board, as are members of other neighborhood groups: Maurice Edwards of the Cabrini-Green LAC Community Corporation, Julie Darling of the West Loop Community Organization and John Bosca of Neighbors of River West.

Fifteen other “subject matter experts” were also on the membership list, including officials from Urban Rivers, the Active Transportation Alliance, the Chicago Federation of Labour, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Metropolitan Planning Council. . Role could change: Lightfoot’s office says membership could change “to address additional community concerns.”

River North Residents Association president Brian Israel said that since the city council’s vote in May, his organization “has focused on promoting a list of recommendations aimed at improving the project and reducing the impacts potentially negative effects on the surrounding community, the citizens of Chicago, and the natural environment.

Israel added, “We take the Mayor at her word that the CCAC will ‘create a tangible space for this important engagement and enable community actors of all kinds to have a meaningful impact before, during and after the construction of the casino.’ We are pleased that the administration remains open to dialogue and look forward to a productive process.

In a statement from the mayor’s office, Bally Chairman Soo Kim said the company is “committed to being good neighbors and corporate citizens, and we look forward to working with all members of the Chicago Casino Advisory Council.” .

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