Bally’s Chicago Receives Criticism for Chinatown Shuttle Service

Published: December 29, 2023, 11:39h. 

Last updated on: December 29, 2023, 11:39h.

Criticism Surrounds Bally’s Chicago’s Free Shuffle to Chinatown Casino

Bally's Chicago casino Chinatown
The exterior of Bally’s Chicago is seen in November 2023. Bally’s Chicago is facing some backlash for running a free shuttle to the casino from Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. (Image: CoStar Group)

Bally’s Chicago has been under scrutiny for quietly offering a complimentary shuttle service between its temporary gaming location inside the historic Medinah Temple and Chicago’s Chinatown, approximately three miles away.(Source)

Many Chinese immigrants are eager to gamble,” explained Chinatown resident, Wing Chan to ABC Chicago.

Not everyone is happy with Bally’s selective target demographic. Grace Chan McKibben, the executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, says her organization was founded in response to similar shuttles historically run by Northwest Indiana casinos.

Bally’s seems to be choosing to attract customers from Chinatown specifically. I see this as a concern, especially for those who may have gambling addiction or related problems,” McKibben expressed to reporters.

McKibben recently learned of the Chinatown shuttle service, thanks to a report by Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit news organization focused on Chicago, the country’s third-largest city.

Asian Communities and Their Affinity for Gambling

“If you don’t gamble, you don’t know how lucky you are” is a popular saying among Asian communities, including the Chinese and Vietnamese. Walk into any casino in a major US city and the odds are good there will be a considerable number of Asians testing that luck.

Chicago Ald. Nicole Lee, whose 11th Ward includes Chinatown, told Block Club Chicago that she too has concerns with Bally’s targeting Asian customers. Lee has plans to meet with Bally’s executives and Chinatown leaders to ensure the services provided are not preying on the Chinese community.

Mark Wong, the general manager of Bally’s Chicago, insists the shuttle is open to all riders. According to Wong, the shuttle was launched to provide “better access to the casino” and they’ve have received “positive feedback” about the Chinatown service.

In addition to the Chinatown shuttle, Bally’s Chicago also transports riders from Furama Restaurant at 2828 S. Wentworth, just south of Chinatown. Wong says the casino is considering adding more routes in 2024.

24/7 Casino Gambling

Bally’s Chicago recently switched to 24/7 operation. Initially open from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily, the temporary facility began operating around the clock on Dec. 27, following approval from the Illinois Gaming Control Board.

The casino boasts nearly 800 slot machines, ranging from penny machines to $100 per spin. It also offers over 50 table games, including baccarat, a game particularly popular among Asian gamblers.

The Medinah Temple facility provides three restaurants, one of which caters to Asian tastes. Kitchen 888 is billed as “a modern high-energy restaurant and noodle bar inspired by Asian street food.”

Bally’s continues to forge ahead with its plans to construct a $1.74 billion resort at the Freedom Center in River West.

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