chicago politics

A $1.7B Bally's Casino is Planned for Chicago. Here's Where, When it Will Open and What We Know

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Bally's Corporation has officially won the Chicago's sole casino license, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Tuesday.

The casino, set to be located in River West, beat out two other billion dollar bids: one from Hard Rock to build a casino just west of Soldier Field, and one from Rivers, which would have built a casino in the South Loop.

"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," Lightfoot said in a press release.

"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."

The bidding war brought months of proposals, public comment, support and strong opposition from some neighborhood groups and aldermen.

The project is not a done deal yet. It must still be approved by the full City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board before it can move forward, but here's what we know right now.

Where will Chicago's Bally's Casino be Located?

The casino project and hotel is expected to be built on a portion of the site of the current industrial Tribune Publishing Center at Tribune Publishing Plant in the River West neighborhood, at N. Halsted St. and W. Chicago Ave.

However, that site needs to be redeveloped.

According to the press release, Bally's will open a temporary casino in River North at the Medinah Temple, located at 600 N Wabash Ave -- the former site of a Bloomingdale's Home Store -- would open first, until the Tribune site can be constructed into a permanent spot.

When the Casino Open?

A press release from Mayor Lightfoot's office did not specify dates. The permanent location is expected to take several years to redevelop.

The casino's temporary location would open first.

Chicago's Bally's Casino, By the Numbers

The $1.74 billion dollar project includes:

  • A 3,000 seat theater
  • An extension of the Riverwalk and pedestrian bridge
  • A 500-room hotel tower
  • An Outdoor park and music venue
  • A fitness center, sun deck and pool spa
  • Six restaurants and a food hall
  • 3,400 slots
  • 170 game tables
  • Nearly 3,000 permanent jobs

As part of its proposal, Bally's offered the city $40 million up front. and $4 million per year after that.

The city estimates a casino will bring in $200 million a year in tax revenue -- money that is earmarked for police and fire pensions, according to officials.

According to officials, Bally's has committed to 60% minority hiring for its nearly 3,000 jobs.

Who Supports it? Who is Against it?

Several officials, including Ald. Brian Hopkins, say that the Bally’s project has been the frontrunner all along, and they are expressing concerns about the process that led to the decision.

“[Mayor Lori Lightfoot] said she’s made no decision, (but) she’s going to come out tomorrow and not explain the justification for it,” Hopkins told NBC 5 Wednesday, before the announcement was made. “I’m calling foul on this right now.”

Hopkins’ ward is located just to the north of the site, which is situated along the Chicago River on a plot of land formerly used as a publishing plant for the Chicago Tribune.

Ald. Walter Burnett of the 27th ward said in a press release that he supports the project.

“It will be a world class entertainment destination that provides jobs, boost tourism numbers and brings a host of incredible amenities into the 27th ward. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the city of Chicago and it will be a premier destination for generations to come."

Area residents have expressed skepticism about the viability of the site, and homeowners’ associations have pushed back against the plan.

“I think it’s a little odd of a location, because there’s not much public transit around here,” one resident said.

The neighboring River North Residents’ Association is overwhelmingly opposed to a casino deal. According to a survey, more than 85% of of people there said they'd rather not have a casino there.

“I think Chicago is one of the great American cities, and I think we can do better than this,” Brian Israel, who represents the association, said.

What Will it Look Like?

Renderings show an extension of the Riverwalk, pedestrians enjoying a sundeck and outdoor park, as glossy 500-room hotel and more.

Provided by Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications

A rendering of the Bally's Corporation Casino in Chicago's River West neighborhood
Provided by Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications

A rendering of the Bally's Corporation Casino in Chicago's River West neighborhood
Provided by Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications

A rendering of the Bally's Corporation Casino in Chicago's River West neighborhood
Provided by Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications

A rendering of the Bally's Corporation Casino in Chicago's River West neighborhood

What Happens Next?

According to the mayor's office, "a comprehensive host community agreement memorializing the agreed upon terms will be negotiated."

That agreement will then be evaluated by an Alderman special committee

All of the City Council will be involved in the process for the final recommendation, and the formal development process will begin following approval from the City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board.

A council meeting is planned for Monday, and the public can weigh in on May 12, on the selected proposal at a community engagement event at UIC Forum, at 725 W Roosevelt Rd. from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Registration for the event is open.

Which Other Casinos Submitted Bids?

Hard Rock (ONE Central Site), West of Soldier Field – Hard Rock proposed a $1.74 billion casino resort just to the north of McCormick Place on Chicago’s lakefront.

The proposal included a 3,500-seat live music venue, a 500-room hotel tower, restaurants, six different bars and lounges, and more than 3,000 slot machines and 166 gaming tables.

Rivers (78), South Loop, including Chinatown and Pilsen – Rivers 78 proposed a $1.62 billion casino project on the site known as “The 78,” a large development on Chicago’s South Side. The proposal included a riverfront area, an observation tower, a riverfront venue for live entertainment, a 300-room hotel tower, eight different restaurants, more than 2,600 slot machines and 190 table games.

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