Bally’s Corporation Wins Chicago Casino License

Long Time Coming

The City of Chicago spent the better part of last year creating an initiative called Request For Proposals (RFP) that would eventually award a single casino license for one lucky operator to operate in downtown Chicago. Currently, the City of Chicago does not have a casino, despite efforts for over three decades to attain one. Now, over a year after the RFP was announced, they have finally selected Bally’s Corporation as the winner of the sole Chicago license.

After months of public comment, proposals, opposition, and support, Bally’s beat out bids by Hard Rock and Rivers to secure the license, though they still need approval from the City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board before they can take next steps. Hard Rock pushed for a location west of Soldier Field while Rivers wanted to see their casino in the South Loop downtown. Proposed location was likely a big factor in the council’s choice as all three operators offered very similar amenities and aspects to their proposal. 

Details of The Project

The casino and hotel will be built at the Tribune Publishing Center on the Tribune Publishing Plant in the River West Neighborhood of Chicago at N. Halsted St. and W. Chicago Ave. However, that area is currently being redeveloped and expected to take several years to finish. Until it is ready for Bally’s to take over, Bally’s will open up a temporary casino at Medinah Temple located at 600 N Wabash Ave. in River North. The temporary casino is subject to a 24-month limit on operating before it has to begin at their permanent location. 

Bally’s submitted two different bids to the City of Chicago proposing two possible locations for their casino. Ultimately, the panel found that the Tribune Publishing Center was a better option than their other proposed location, McCormick Place Truck Marshalling.

Bally’s $1.8 billion project will be divided into two phases and will include 500 hotel rooms, six restaurants, a food hall, and three bars. It will also include a 3,000-seat, 70,000 square foot entertainment venue and a 20,000 square foot “exhibition space.” For relaxation purposes, it will also include rooftop amenities like a lounge, bar, pool, sundeck, and fitness center. Gamblers won’t be bored either – there are set to be over 3,400 slots and 173 different table games at Ballys’ new establishment. 

Furthermore, this project guarantees approximately 3,000 permanent jobs for Chicago residents, 60% of which Bally’s has pledged will be minorities. 

Crunching The Numbers

Per Bally’s executive project summary, “Bally’s is prepared to make a project commitment of $1 billion in Phase 1 to Bally’s Chicago. Additionally, we are prepared to make an additional $600 million project commitment in a follow-on phase, subject to achieving a sustainable 20% return on initial investment.”

The City of Chicago estimates that this casino has the potential to generate up to $200 million a year in tax revenue. It’s been determined that the majority of this tax revenue will be put toward police and fire pensions in the city. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot seems to be excited about the opportunity as expressed in a press release: “We are confident that Bally’s Tribune Publishing Center development will shore up the City’s pension funds, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and lead to a bright financial future for our city.”