CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago casino is still a few years away from reality, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot is taking the next big step toward building the city’s first major gambling operation, asking bidders to submit formal proposals for the project.

“This is a historic opportunity to build Chicago’s first casino,” Lightfoot said in a video accompanying the city’s announcement. “We’re excited to have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a world-class integrated casino resort that will complement Chicago’s already booming, thriving entertainment and culture scene.”

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The city formally issued a request for proposals for developers to present their casino plans, including a proposed location.

Last year, in response to a city request for information from potential bidders interested in building and operating the casino, 8 of the 11 groups that responded said the casino should be built in or near downtown. One company favored a site near the Harborside golf course alongside Lake Calumet on the Southeast Side. Two others did not state a preference.

Official bids are due to the city by Aug. 23, and applicants will make public presentations on their plans in late September. A series of community meetings will follow at the end of the year.

The mayor will then choose from among the bidders early next year, and the plan would have to be approved by the City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board.

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The mayor’s office said any plans for a Chicago casino-resort must include a hotel with as many as 500 rooms, meeting space, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.

“The City is seeking an entertainment and gaming destination to enhance the urban fabric of the surrounding neighborhood,” the mayor’s office said in a news release.

The chosen casino operator also would be authorized to build a temporary gambling operation while the permanent facility is being built. They could also install slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports before the permanent casino is up and running.

The city expects the permanent casino will be open by 2025. Tax revenue from the casino would be dedicated to the city’s underfunded police and fire pension funds.

Other requirements for bidders include:

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  • 26% minority business enterprise (MBE) participation, 6% women business enterprise (WBE) participation and Chicago-based businesses in the design and construction of the project.
  • 50% of total work hours by City residents and 7.5% of total work hours by residents of the area surrounding the project in the construction of the project.
  • Hiring of employees at the project to assist in building wealth in disadvantaged communities, prioritizing hiring of City residents and achieve a diverse workforce reflecting the overall diversity of the City.
  • Sourcing goods and services during operation of the project to assist in building wealth in disadvantaged communities, prioritizing City-based businesses and maximizing high levels of contracting with MBE and WBE providers and substantial levels of contracting with veteran-owned businesses and businesses owned by persons with a disability.

The tentative timeline for the RFP is:

  • April 22, 2021: City issues RFP
  • Ongoing: City posts responses to applicant questions on the City’s website
  • July 23, 2021: Last date for applicants to submit written RFP questions on or before 5 p.m. CT
  • August 23, 2021: Proposals due by 2 p.m. CT
  • Late Sept. 2021: Applicants make public presentations of their proposals
  • Q4 2021:  
    • Community meetings with applicants as necessary prior to filing of Planned Development zoning application
    • City announces applicants qualifying for right to negotiate host community agreements
    • City commences negotiations of host community agreements and City commences required City department for agency reviews for Planned Development process
  • Early 2022:
    • City selects final applicant
    • Ordinance introduced by City Council in support of the response of selected applicant, and applicant submits introduction to City Council of Planned Development application
    • Follow up community meeting(s) to present revisions of selected Applicant’s proposal, if necessary, for Planned Development process
    • Chicago Plan Commission hearing for selected applicant
    • City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards
    • City Council adopts ordinance in support of the Response of the selected applicant and Planned Development
Applicants may submit written questions concerning the RFP to and the subject line must state, “City of Chicago, RFP Question(s).”

CBS 2 Chicago Staff