Chicago Mayor Picks Bally's To Run Windy City's $1.7bn Casino

May 6, 2022
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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced Bally’s Corporation is her choice to build and operate a mega casino in the nation’s third largest city by 2026.

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday (May 5) announced Bally’s Corporation is her choice to build and operate a mega casino in the nation’s third largest city by 2026.

“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 during a news conference which included Bally’s chairman Soo Kim.

Kim thanked the mayor and her office for conducting a “tough but fair” selection process.

“Chicago is a unique and vibrant city, deserving of a world-class gaming and entertainment destination that drives the local economy, supports local labor, creates multi-generational wealth for minority investors, and showcases the best of what the city has to offer,” Kim said.

Based in Providence, Rhode Island, Bally’s prevailed over heavily-favored Rush Street Gaming, its partner Related Midwest of Chicago and its politically well-connected chairman and co-founder, Neil Bluhm.

“We believe in the future of Chicago, and we wish the city and Bally’s every success,” Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Rush Street Gaming and Related Midwest, said in an email to VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Hard Rock International, the other finalist, did not respond to a request for comment.

A temporary version of the casino is scheduled to open in Spring 2023 before the permanent model is launched in late 2025 or early 2026.

When completed, the casino is expected to offer 3,400 slots, 170 table games, 500 hotel rooms, six restaurants, three bars, a 3,000-seat theatre, an outdoor park and other amenities.

Bally’s estimates the casino will produce almost $200m in annual revenue for Chicago.

Although the mayor’s announcement on Thursday certainly was a milestone, the casino still has a long way to go.

Waiting to review the mayor’s recommendation is the Chicago City Council, which includes 50 aldermen.

If approved by the city council, the casino proposal would then be reviewed by the Illinois Gaming Board.

Nevertheless, Walter Burnett, Jr., the Chicago alderman who represents the ward where the casino will be built, said he is confident the project will overcome any potential roadblocks.

“This is a home run for the city. We’ve been trying to do this for 30 years,” Burnett told VIXIO in a phone interview.

“This casino is going to increase tourism and jobs in our ward,” he said.

The Chicago casino also should reduce the exodus of Illinois gamblers to casinos such as the Hard Rock Casino in Gary, Indiana, which is about a 40-mile drive away.

“One of the advantages we have in Chicago over other gambling markets is the number of hotels we have,” Burnett said.

Tom Thanas, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, said the Chicago casino should be another example of the valuable partnership between the gaming industry and the state of Illinois during the last 30 years.

“While the city of Chicago shunned the idea of casino gaming for many years, it has become apparent that city leaders have discovered that casino gaming is an effective tool for economic development, job creation and revenue generation,” Thanas said.

Bally’s has committed to a 60 percent minority workforce at the Chicago casino.

“I am excited to see this casino come to fruition with an overall understanding that fair and equitable Black and Brown participation will be paramount in the overall success of the project,” said Tenille Jackson, executive director of the National Association of Promotional Retailers.

“I look forward to actively participating in the process in place to see more Black and Brown businesses succeed in this industry for generations to come,” Jackson said.

Chicago gaming attorney Cory Aronovitz said the new casino “will offset revenues lost to the video gaming [terminal] sector [in Illinois].”

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