Bally’s Wins Bid for Right to Build Downtown Chicago Casino

Bally’s Wins Bid for Right to Build Downtown Chicago Casino
By Christopher Boan
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Bally’s Corporation beat out two other finalists — Rush Street Interactive and Hard Rock Interactive — in a more than six-month long contest to see who would build the first casino-resort inside Chicago’s city limits.

Bally’s Chicago Casino at Tribune Publishing Center was announced as the winning bid by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday morning.

Lightfoot said Bally’s will be able to move forward with its proposed casino, which would be located near Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, just west of the Chicago River’s north branch.

"I am proud to announce that Bally's Corporation will create a world-class entertainment district in our city that will delight residents and tourists alike," Lightfoot said. "Following significant analyses and community input on all aspects of our three finalists for Chicago's casino license, the selection committee and I have chosen Bally's to move forward in the development of the city's first integrated casino resort.

“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."

How We Got To This Point

Bally’s was one of five groups to submit a bid to the city last November. Bally’s, RSI’s Rivers 78 properties and Hard Rock’s bid were selected as the three finalists in March.

The city of Chicago has one casino license available, part of the state’s 2019 gambling legislation. In December, despite lobbying by Rush Street Gaming Chairman Neil Bluhm, Chicago repealed its ban on sports betting. Bluhm had argued that retail sportsbooks located at the city’s professional sports venues would damage the viability of a downtown casino.

In March, fully remote registration became legal for mobile Illinois sports betting.

Rush Street Gaming’s Rivers 78 proposed property was on Clark Street and Roosevelt Road along the South Loop.

Hard Rock would have built their gaming facility in conjunction with the One Central project that’s located near the historic home of the Chicago Bears.

The two bids not among the three finalists were plans from RSI and Bally’s at the McCormick Place Convention Center.

Why Chicago Chose the Bally’s Bid

Lightfoot celebrated the decision to choose Bally’s over the other two finalists in a series of tweets Thursday morning, saying the company’s proposed $1.7 billion facility would offer world-class gaming to the Second City.


She highlighted the fact that the complex would feature 170 table games, in addition to a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater and other features as a reason to promote the project over the others.

“This effort was three decades in the making, and Chicago is long overdue for an entertainment complex that rivals other big cities. Bally’s Chicago will feature world-class amenities,” Lightfoot said on Twitter.

Lightfoot also highlighted the fact Bally’s casino project will generate thousands of new jobs for the city and provide much-needed revenue for the city’s public sector pension funds.

“The Chicago casino will generate jobs for the city — guaranteeing 3,000 construction jobs per year & 3,000 permanent jobs,” Lightfoot tweeted. “The casino will also support the police and fire pensions. Bally's Chicago will be a luxury destination for residents and tourists all year long.”

Big Day for Bally’s

Soo Kim, who serves as the chairman of Bally’s Corporation’s Board of Directors, said in a statement the company is thrilled with Lightfoot’s decision to choose the operator’s bid over the other four entrants, saying the operator is ready to support the city.

"We would like to thank Mayor Lightfoot and her office for conducting a tough, but fair, RFP process, and for selecting Bally's Chicago as the preferred bidder for the City's casino,” Kim said in the statement. “Our vision is that Bally's Chicago will be of the people, by the people, and for the people of Chicago.

“Chicago is a unique and vibrant city, deserving of a world-class gaming and entertainment destination that drives the local economy, supports local labor, creates multigenerational wealth for minority investors, and showcases the best of what the City has to offer.”

As part of the deal, Bally’s will pay $40 million to the city upfront for a casino license, with annual payments of $4 million after that. The company projects to generate more than $800 million in gaming revenue annually, according to a company press release.

Also on Thursday, Bally’s announced its first-quarter earnings. Bally’s posted first-quarter revenue of $548.3 million with a net income of $1.9 million.

The company also announced it would terminate consideration of Standard General’s proposal to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Bally’s. The company said it would initiate a cash tender offer for its shares.

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Christopher Boan is a lead writer at IllinoisBet.com specializing in covering state issues. He covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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