Bally’s Submits Application For Downtown Chicago Casino License

Bally's takes first step to build 'flagship' casino property in Chicago
Ballys Chicago casino application

Bally’s formally submitted its application for a casino license to the Illinois Gaming Board on Wednesday, seeking to build a $1.7 billion venue in the River West neighborhood of the third-largest city in the United States. If the IGB approves the application, Bally’s would operate a temporary casino at Medinah Temple in nearby River North while the permanent venue is built on the former Tribune Publishing plant grounds.

“Bally’s submitted its casino license application to the Illinois Gaming Board. We look forward to working with the Illinois Gaming Board and the City of Chicago to bring a world-class entertainment destination resort to Chicago,” Christopher Jewett, vice president of corporate development at Bally’s Corporation, said in a statement to US Bets.

The Chicago Tribune was the first to report the story.

This marks the first tangible step forward for Bally’s since being approved by the Chicago City Council as the applicant for the downtown license on May 25. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, running for reelection in February, selected Bally’s as the city’s preferred operator over proposals from Rush Street Gaming and Hard Rock on May 5, creating a sprint of sorts at the city government level that left some aldermen complaining that the final leg of the process was rushed.

The downtown Chicago casino license was one of six created by the gaming expansion bill, which also legalized sports betting in Illinois, that Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law in June 2019. City officials hope the Bally’s casino will generate $800 million in annual revenue at full maturity, which would result in an estimated $200 million in tax revenue for the city that would go largely toward underfunded fire and police pensions.

The city has estimated that the state loses approximately $331 million in casino revenue annually to neighboring Indiana, which has three venues within an hour’s drive of Chicago when traffic is timed right.

Key parts of Bally’s proposed casino

In its pitch to the city, Bally’s pledged to make the River West venue “its flagship property”  and gave the city a $40 million upfront payment. It said it hopes to open the Medinah Temple temporary venue in the second quarter of next year and is looking to build the permanent casino in two phases.

The first phase is a $1 billion buildout featuring 2,700 slot machines and 95 table games that allows for the potential expansion of gaming space or other amenities as needed. It would also include a 100-suite luxury hotel; an outdoor music venue with seating capacity ranging from 500 to 1,000; green space; and dining options curated by One Off Hospitality, which is run by James Beard award winner and Chicago native Paul Kahan.

The second phase, with a price tag of at least $600 million, would begin after a 20% return on investment is established. It would add 700 slot machines and 78 table games, while the space would incorporate six dining venues. Bally’s would also build a 400-room hotel tower with a rooftop pool and bar, a 3,000-seat entertainment venue, and a 20,000-square-foot exhibition center that would include a Chicago-themed sports museum.

Some of the casino-adjacent proposals have drawn the ire of River West residents, with one group seeking to nix the outdoor music venue. Many residents opposed the casino during the public listening sessions, though Alderman Walter Burnett, whose 27th Ward is where Bally’s will build, has generally been supportive of having a casino in the city.

Photo: Shutterstock


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