Chicago creates special City Council committee to bring local community input on issues related to Bally’s casino project

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, with the support of casino operator Bally’s, on Thursday announced the creation of a special City Council committee, called Casino Community Advisory Council (CAC), that will serve as a “channel for community input” as the City moves forward with its first casino.

The proposed Casino CAC includes residents, and community groups from surrounding neighborhoods, as well as experts on a range of relevant topics listed. Management and oversight of the CAC will be jointly shared by the Department of Planning and Development, the Mayor’s Office of Community Engagement, the Department of Transportation, and the CFO’s office

The group will meet quarterly to discuss the project and address issues raised by community members including arts and entertainment, economic development and planning, social impacts of gambling, housing and community development, infrastructure and transportation, local industry, equity participation, open space and environment, business and finance, public safety, public transit, organized labor, workforce development, and job creation. Membership of the Casino CAC is subject to change throughout the engagement process to address additional concerns of the community.  

“Since beginning the process to secure a Chicago Casino, my administration has remained dedicated to ensuring our residents have every opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns about it,” Lightfoot said in a press release. “This Community Advisory Council will create a tangible space for this important engagement and allow community stakeholders of all kinds to have a meaningful impact before, during, and after the casino’s construction.”  

The announcement comes as Bally’s, which filed its application to build Chicago’s first casino with the Illinois Gaming Board last month, sees local support for its project from river advocates and ecological preservationists, which claim the casino represents an opportunity to do riverfront development the right way.

The purpose of the new Casino CAC is to create a forum for ongoing community engagement throughout the development of the Bally’s casino. The primary focus is to secure community input on the development of the entire permanent site; however, the committee will also consider issues related to the operation of the temporary site as they are applicable to the future permanent casino project. The Casino CAC will remain intact until the opening of the casino. 

Bally’s said it would spend $70 million to open a temporary casino at Medinah Temple by June 2023 while constructing the $1.7 billion permanent hotel-casino at the former Chicago Tribune site downtown along the Chicago River, which could require an accelerated process at the gaming board. The $1.74 billion resort is expected to open in Q1, 2026. 

“From the beginning, Bally’s has made it a priority to listen and respond to community feedback,” said Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim. “We are committed to being good neighbors and corporate citizens, and we look forward to working with all members of the Chicago Casino Advisory Council.” 

“The Community Advisory Council is going to ensure that the casino is developed with the utmost quality and addresses every concern raised by community members,” said Alderman Walter Burnett, 27th Ward. “The CAC will play a vital role in the casino’s success, and I applaud Mayor Lightfoot and the rest of her team for pulling together an incredible team.” 

Members of the Chicago Casino Advisory Committee: 

Neighborhood Representatives 

  • Maurice Edwards, President, Cabrini-Green LAC Community Corporation
  • Robin Schabes, Resident and Volunteer Chair of the River North Residents
  • Association Development & Land Use Committee
  • Julie Darling, Board Member of the West Loop Community Organization
  • John Bosca, President Emeritus at Neighbors of River West

Issue Experts 

  • Edward Warm, Chicago Independent Venue League
  • Victoria Lakes-Battle, Executive Director – Chicago Metro Region at IFF
  • Jose Bedolla, Board Member, West Central Association
  • Eunice Liao, Mental Health Counselor and Gambling Program Lead at Pui Tak Center
  • Julianna Castro, Financial Assistant, American Indian Health Service of Chicago
  • Darlene Oliver Hightower, President and CEO at Metropolitan Planning Council
  • Nilay Mistry, Interim Program Director, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Jonathan Snyder, Executive Director at North Branch Works
  • Nadia Quarles, Assistant Vice President for Business Diversity at the University of Chicago
  • Phillip Nicodemus, Director of Research at Urban Rivers
  • Marty Padilla, President at Greater River North Business Association
  • Michele Dreczynski, Program Manager/Consultant at Near North Unity Program
  • David Powe, Director of Planning and Technical Assistance at the Active Transportation Alliance
  • Andrea Kluger, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Chicago Federation of Labor
  • Chynna Hampton, Equity Director, Climate Jobs IL, IL AFL CIO