Bally’s Corp. plans for a state-of-the-art casino in downtown Chicago took its next step when it made a $40 million payment to the city.
In November 2021, Chicago received five proposals from four applicants for a downtown casino. In May 2022, the city recommended Bally’s Corp. be selected to build the casino, according to the City of Chicago website, by way of a 41-7 City Council vote, beating out Rush Street Interactive and Hard Rock Interactive.
Chicago had one casino license available as part of the state’s 2019 gambling legislation.
Fully remote registration for mobile Illinois sports betting became legal in March 2022.
In early June, Chicago and Bally’s signed a host community agreement, which codified the license for the city’s first casino.
“The City of Chicago received $40 million from Bally’s as part of an upfront payment that will go entirely toward the city’s annual required pension contribution. This is the first down payment from the casino on the future of Chicago’s pensions and a clear indication of the city’s commitment to its hard-working public safety professionals,” the Mayor’s Press Office said in a news release last week. “In the years to come, the Chicago casino is projected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues to the city, with many of those revenues embarked for pensions.
“Mayor Lightfoot and her team look forward to building upon this success by bringing thousands of good-paying, union jobs and a world-class entertainment district to the River West neighborhood. The Mayor also looks forward to continuing to engage with community through the establishment of a casino community advisory council.”
A $1.7B Project in Downtown Chicago
Bally’s Chicago will be a $1.7 billion destination casino, entertainment and hotel offering, according to the Bally official website, which outlined that the project “will showcase ‘The Best of Chicago’ as visitors will get a taste of what the city has to offer – from arts and culture, food and sports to our curated dining and entertainment experiences.”
The location for the casino is on the 30-acre Chicago Tribune Publishing Center at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, just west of the Chicago River’s north branch.
Bally’s plan is to open a temporary casino inside the former Medinah Temple complex on North Wabash Avenue, which will be open to patrons until the permanent casino is completed in early 2026.
It is within walking distance to shopping and cultural attractions along Michigan Avenue, according to Bally’s. The casino will offer gaming to high-limit and casual gaming customers, along with a four-tier loyalty card program with “lucrative rewards in the industry and a tie-in to small businesses.”
First Payment Helps Budget Shortfall
The $40 million upfront in licensing fees helps put a dent in the city’s budget shortfall while providing jobs to Chicagoans.
“This is a generational opportunity, which the city has been working toward for 30 years,” City CFO Jennie Huang Bennett said during the council meeting in March to approve Bally's.
Bally’s will continue to make $4 million annual payments to Chicago and still needs to be licensed by the Illinois Gaming Board to operate the casino. According to a Bally’s Group news release, the company projects to generate more than $800 million annually in gaming revenue.