Restarting the Approval Process for Bally’s Chicago

Posted on: January 23, 2024, 05:38h. 

Last updated on: January 23, 2024, 05:38h.

Last week, it was revealed that Bally’s will have to construct a hotel tower for its permanent Chicago casino in a new location due to municipal water pipes under Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center.

Bally's Chicago gross gaming revenue
Bally’s temporary Chicago casino at Medinah Temple. A local media outlet is encouraging a redo of the approval process for the permanent casino at Freedom Center. (Image: Axios Chicago)

Shifting the location of the proposed 100-room hotel is no easy task, but the regional casino operator believes it can move the hotel to another structure that’s slated to be built on the south end of the property. Still, the water pipe issue is viewed as the latest in a long line of snafus involving Bally’s Chicago plans and some locals believe the entire approval process should be subject to a “do over.”

In a recent op-ed, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board noted that while the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council previously approved Bally’s Freedom Center plans, Mayor Brandon Johnson should get involved and force a redo of the approval process. The newspaper criticized the gaming company and the city for not being aware of the piping issuer sooner.

Shame on Bally’s and the city for not having done the work months ago to determine what is underneath the planned hotel site near Chicago Avenue and the river,” wrote the editorial board.

The $1.7 billion Bally’s Chicago is the operator’s most expensive project and will be the first casino hotel in the third-largest US city. The Rhode Island-based gaming company currently runs a temporary gaming venue at Medinah Temple in the River North section of the city.

Bally’s Chicago Beset by Issues

For now, it appears as though Bally’s will be able to move the location of the hotel, but the need to do so adds to a long list of issues surrounding the Chicago venture.

Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s (D-Chicago) picked Bally’s as the winning bidder for the Chicago casino license in May 2022 over Hard Rock International — the gaming arm of the Seminole Tribe of Florida — and Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming.

Since then, controversy has emerged. Last month, reports surfaced that there may be multiple investigations, including one federal, into how the city awarded the permit to Bally’s.

“The Sun-Times reported last June that Nomura Securities, a city consultant selected to evaluate casino proposals when Lightfoot was mayor, had financial ties to Bally’s — the company that was ultimately selected over two more established enterprises to build and operate the casino,” wrote the paper’s editorial team.

Bally’s Chicago Temporary Casino Off to Slow Start

Compounding the aforementioned woes is the point that the temporary casino is off to a disappointing start. From its debut last September through December, the venue generated just $3.1 million in revenue for the city — far short of the $12.8 million previously forecast by the Lightfoot Administration.

Bally’s is aiming to commence construction on the permanent casino hotel at some point this year, indicating that if the approval process is restarted, delays could be significant.

However, the Sun-Times editorial board argues the fresh start is necessary to ensure taxpayer confidence in the project and that there are no more negative surprises.

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