New Temporary Chicago Casino Opens At Historic Medinah Temple

New Temporary Chicago Casino Opens At Historic Medinah Temple
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Legal casino gaming in Chicago finally became a reality Saturday as Bally’s Corp. opened its temporary venue in the historic Medinah Temple. The casino in the city’s River North neighborhood features almost 800 slot machines and 56 table games spread across three floors of the 110-year-old building. The facility had been vacant since Bloomingdale’s closed its store there three years ago.

Bally’s Chicago, the latest spot for gaming in a state that also offers online and retail Illinois sports betting, will employ more than 700 people.

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Bally’s Gains Official OK on Friday

State regulators issued the Rhode Island-based gaming company a temporary license on Friday after successful rehearsals were completed last Wednesday and Thursday.

“We would like to thank the Illinois Gaming Board for granting Bally’s the approval to begin welcoming public guests,” Bally’s Chicago Vice President and General Manager Mark Wong said in a statement. “Their confidence in our team’s ability to meet or exceed all regulatory requirements comes after months of extensive validation. It is an honor to present our guests with a first-class gaming experience and accomplish the goal of opening a casino within the city limits.”

Media reports showed a line of players waiting along North Wabash Street for the doors to open Saturday morning. An official ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration is expected later this month.

Efforts to make Illinois online casinos legal have not made much progress.

Bally’s Planning $1.7 Billion Chicago Casino Resort

The Medinah Temple serves as Bally’s first casino in the nation’s third-largest city, but it has plans for a much larger resort a mile away.

Last year, the Chicago City Council approved then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recommendation that the city select Bally’s proposal to develop a casino at the Chicago Tribune’s publishing plant along the Chicago River. It was not a unanimous decision; some aldermen representing nearby areas objected, citing fears over increased traffic and crime.

The gaming company, which runs sports betting in some states but not one of the Illinois sportsbook apps, plans to invest $1.7 billion in the complex. The permanent casino is expected to include 3,400 slot machines and 170 table games. Bally’s will also build a 500-room hotel, 3,000-seat theatre, outdoor park, and concert venue as part of the development.

The permanent venue is expected to create 3,000 construction jobs. Bally’s anticipates hiring 3,000 workers to staff the planned casino when it opens, which is slated to happen in three years.

Bally’s won the right to the city’s lone casino license after one of its two proposals beat out projects proposed by Hard Rock International and Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming. Revenue from the casino will help the city cover its pension commitments to first responders.

The permanent Bally’s Chicago casino gained a preliminary finding of suitability from the Illinois Gaming Board in June.

Casino Expansion Continues In Illinois

The Chicago casino was one of six new licenses approved by Illinois lawmakers when they passed a comprehensive gaming bill four years ago. That bill also authorized retail and online sports betting statewide.

Besides the Windy City, casinos were allowed in Rockford, Waukegan, Danville, Carterville and Chicago’s south suburbs. Temporary venues are up in all locations except for the south suburbs, where Wind Creek plans to open in 2025.

Illinois racetracks could also add casino gaming. However, Churchill Downs declined the invitation to build a casino at Arlington Park, which it eventually closed and sold the property to the Chicago Bears. Hawthorne Park has plans for a casino at the Cicero track, but it has not opened yet.

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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