Casino operators, accustomed to having an edge, are having trouble finding one in Chicago’s request for proposals to build a first-class gambling complex that would prop up its police and fire pension funds.
Four large gambling companies expressed an interest in Chicago’s plans late last year. But two have since folded their hands. A third interested party, Chicago’s Rush Street Gaming, owner of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, said through a spokesman it is still deciding how to respond to the “unique opportunity.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration could hear from other bidders, including real estate developers. But industry experts say Chicago’s ambitious call for perhaps a $1 billion investment—including a 500-room 5-star hotel and an entertainment venue—is drawing skeptical analyses. Some contend there’s little potential here to expand traditional gaming and that the risk is too great to meet the city’s aspirations for something close to a resort.
“The casinos in the state have been in nothing but a downward spiral for a decade, except for Rivers,” said Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA, a consulting firm and newsletter publisher. “There’s no reason to believe that if you add a casino downtown that you’ll do anything but cannibalize the others, including Rivers. It’s kind of a zero-sum game and everybody loses.”
City officials did not answer requests for comment Monday.
Critics also see obstacles such as a tax rate many…