Chicago Becomes Largest City In North America To Open Casino

September 14, 2023
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They started lining up at 6:30am for the 8am opening on September 9 of Bally’s Corporation’s temporary casino at the Medinah Temple in Chicago and gamblers will continue to patronize the historic building with Moorish Revival architecture for the next three years.
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They started lining up at 6:30am for the 8am opening on Saturday (September 9) of Bally’s Corporation’s temporary casino at the Medinah Temple in Chicago and gamblers will continue to patronize the historic building with Moorish Revival architecture for the next three years.

But an alderman on Chicago’s City Council already is predicting the permanent casino will not open.

“Since the city chose Bally’s to operate this casino, their stock is down 27 percent in the last year,” Brian Hopkins, an alderman representing Ward 2 in Chicago, said during an appearance Monday (September 11) on WTTW, the city’s public broadcasting service station.

“They were counting on a much bigger opening weekend. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I just don’t know where the money’s going to come from for them to live up to their obligations,” Hopkins said.

Bally’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

During its earnings call in August, Bally’s reported second-quarter revenue of $606.2m, an increase of 9.7 percent over the same period in 2022.

Cory Aronovitz, a gaming attorney with the Casino Law Group in Chicago, told Vixio GamblingCompliance in an email that “it is unlikely that there will be any significant issues to impact the operations [of Bally’s temporary or permanent casino].”

“I am interested in how the new mayor (Democrat Brandon Johnson) will work with the casino in the development and schedule of the proposed permanent facility,” Aronovitz said. 

Johnson, 47, defeated former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a Democratic primary in February.

Lightfoot chose Bally’s in May 2022 to develop and operate Chicago’s casino.

Crime is one of the primary concerns about the temporary casino’s location in the inner city of Chicago.

A 21-year-old man was shot in the leg while walking on a sidewalk near the temporary casino by someone inside a silver Dodge pick-up truck just before 3am on Monday.

“It doesn’t appear that either of the parties who were engaged in this shooting were ever in the casino,” said Hopkins, the Chicago alderman.

In a prepared statement, Bally’s said it is confident the shooting was “unrelated to our temporary venue.”

“We hold the highest standards in providing security and monitoring the casino’s perimeter,” Bally’s said.

Another concern is traffic near the temporary casino, which is located less than a mile from The Magnificent Mile, the premier commercial district of Chicago.

Despite these concerns, Chicago officials are projecting the casino could generate nearly $1.3bn of annual direct, indirect and induced revenue for the city.

The opening of the casino also marks the “end of almost 33 years of debate and deliberation whether Chicago should host a casino,” said Tom Thamas, who recently retired as executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.

The state legislature in Illinois for decades debated various proposals to authorize a downtown Chicago casino, before lawmakers finally approved a sweeping expanded gambling package that also included sports wagering and additional casino locations in June 2019.

Dick Simpson, who served as an alderman on the Chicago City Council from 1971 to 1979, said the temporary casino is likely to attract a new demographic of middle-class and working-class customers who can use public transit instead of driving two hours to another Illinois casino.

“We need the revenue because the city is losing federal funds distributed during COVID and we have had an influx of asylum seekers from Texas and Florida,” said Simpson, who is a University of Illinois-Chicago professor emeritus.

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