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Chicago Plan Commission approves $1.7B casino and entertainment complex

Chicago's planning dept. approves $1.7B casino and entertainment complex
Chicago's planning dept. approves $1.7B casino and entertainment complex 00:55

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Bally's plan for a $1.7 billion casino in River West cleared another hurdle on Monday.

The Chicago Plan Commission approved Bally's plan to redevelop the site of the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center printing plant into a casino and entertainment complex. The first phase of the plan will include the casino, a 500-room hotel, nearly a dozen restaurants, an event center and a new theater. Future phases will include up to 4,800 apartments and condos, 250 hotel rooms, retail space, and a new public park.

The project is expected to create 3,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs at the casino and entertainment complex.

But the casino board was met with criticism when it came to guaranteeing job security.

"As you know the other neighborhood aldermen do not support this. I stood up and supported this, and one of the assurances I got out of this was that people in our community are going to be able to work," said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), in whose ward the casino would be located. "In supporting this, I potentially put my election in jeopardy."

The City Council Zoning Committee is expected to approve the plans Tuesday. 

Bally's plans to open a temporary casino in the landmark Medinah Temple building in River North in the second quarter of 2023, with the permanent casino in River West expected to open in the first quarter of 2026. 

Bally's is still awaiting license approval from the Illinois Gaming Board.   

Critics have accused the Lightfoot administration of ramming the Bally's plan through City Council without properly addressing concerns about how the already congested River West neighborhood will handle the influx of additional traffic, or how the casino might lead to an increase in crime.

City officials have said the casino ultimately will generate $200 million a year in tax revenue for the city, which will go towards the city's woefully underfunded police and fire pension systems. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her allies said earlier this year that without the casino revenue, the city would be forced to seek a major property tax increase to shore up those pension funds.

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