CHICAGO — City leaders on Monday debated the sticking points of a Chicago casino project three years in the making.
Concerns were raised about where the site will be located and if bidders will commit to hiring union workers.
“This is one of the largest developments in the city’s history and we must ensure we maintain fairness to the bidders while also allowing ourselves to negotiate key terms as we make our way through this process,” said Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor of Economic and Neighborhood Development for the City of Chicago.
After a series of public meetings, the proposed sites are Ballys at the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center along the Chicago River between Chicago and Grand avenues, Rivers at the 78 in Chinatown and Hard Rock- ONE Central site, east of Soldier Field.
A casino and entertainment district with restaurants, hotel space, and proposed music and museum venues would create up to 12,000 temporary construction jobs and thousands of other permanent hospitality positions. Aldermen and members of the Chicago Federation of Labor are concerned none of the three finalists have made a commitment to hiring union workers, however.
“The question I want to know from them is are they in discussions with any of the unions? And which ones and which ones are not?” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) asked. “That’s very important if this is going to have a snowball’s chance to go anywhere.”
“I hope the bidders are out there and they’re listening. The city is projected to make a lot of money on this and we need to make sure the employees have a living wage and are working with the unions,” added Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th Ward).
A casino could generate $200 million a year for the city of Chicago and another $200 million in revenue going to the state. It’s money that could go towards police and fire pension fund payments, Chicago Public Schools and other city agencies like the Chicago Park District.
Another concern brought up at the meeting was traffic congestion and crime, but Jenny Bennett, the city’s chief financial officer says residents shouldn’t worry about that.
“The crime rate overall decreases, in large part, because casinos are highly regulated entities,” Bennett said. “They come with a lot of security, a lot of cameras and just about the worst place to commit a crime is in the vicinity of a casino.”