Chicago Expects Top Casino Operators To Apply For Gaming License

Chicago was granted a casino license under the 2019 Illinois state capital package. The package of legislation paved the way for expanded gaming and legalized sports betting in the state. Most of the top gaming operators in the country were very eager to get into Chicago and set up a casino resort.

Chicago recently released its Request for Proposal (RFP) for potential license applicants and has given them a deadline of August 23, 2021 to send in their proposals. MGM Resorts was expected to be one of the main candidates to apply for the casino license.

Complicated Tax Structure Pushes MGM Away

However, during MGM’s quarterly call, CEO Bill Hornbuckle poured some cold water on the idea of applying for a casino license in Chicago, citing the city’s complicated tax structure. During the meeting, Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Halkyard said they are not currently focused on building a casino in Chicago, and are instead looking at other potential locations such as New York, Georgia, Texas, Florida, and Japan.

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MGM Resorts was among companies widely assumed to apply for a casino license in Chicago as it had previously provided input into the process, in response to the city’s Request for Information.

MGM, alongside two other casino giants, Wynn Resorts and Hard Rock International, suggested that the forthcoming integrated resort be built in or near downtown Chicago. Their comments were published in December 2020. Because of those remarks, gaming analysts expected MGM to submit a casino proposal.

But that turned out to be a false hope, as the company has now officially distanced itself from such possibility. However, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is not too concerned that MGM has dropped out from the race as she expects all of the other top gaming operators to submit their proposals.

Top Gaming Operators Will Apply

Asha Binbek, deputy press secretary to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, said a casino proposal from a “well-respected” company like MGM would have given significant boost to the state’s ongoing integrated resorts project, but they’re quite confident that outstanding proposals will eventually pour in, and that other well-respected casino operators will take the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity of establishing operations in Chicago.

Chicago plans to review casino applications and make a shortlist in early 2022. The casino operator will be given a temporary casino license to operate their casino and officials expect the casino to open its doors to the public before the end of 2025. The casino operator will also get to control slot machines in two airports and will have permission to operate a total of 4000 slot machines under this gaming license.