Chicago Mayor's Ouster Unlikely To Delay Progress On Bally's Casino

March 2, 2023
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The repudiation of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her bid for re-election is not expected to hinder the development of Bally’s Corporation’s $1.7bn destination-resort casino in the third largest city in the United States.

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The repudiation of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her bid for re-election is not expected to hinder the development of Bally’s Corporation’s $1.7bn destination-resort casino in the third largest city in the United States.

A temporary casino is scheduled to open perhaps as early as this summer at the historic Medinah Temple in Chicago.

The permanent casino, which is projected to produce $200m in tax revenue annually, is set to begin operations in 2026 on the site of the Chicago Tribune printing press at 777 W. Chicago Avenue, also know as Freedom Center.

“Barring a scandal or some other surprising event, I think the casino is too far down the track to be stopped,” said Cory Aronovitz, a gaming attorney at the Casino Law Group in Chicago.

On February 9, the Illinois Gaming Board issued early approvals to the landlord of the temporary casino.

The gaming board is still reviewing Bally’s application for the permanent casino but has not raised any objections so far.

Lightfoot, 60, received only 17 percent of the vote in the mayor’s primary on Tuesday (February 28).

A runoff to determine the new mayor will occur April 4 between former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who received 33.77 percent of Tuesday’s vote to lead all nine candidates, and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who received 20.29 percent of the vote.

Dick Simpson, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago who served as an alderman on the Chicago city council from 1971 to 1979, said Lightfoot’s defeat is a loss for the city.

“Her agenda was slowed by the pandemic, and she really needed another four years to fully develop her economic programs for the poorest sections of the city,” Simpson said.

The casino was a major part of Lightfoot’s economic agenda, but it never emerged as a significant issue in a campaign dominated by concerns about crime.

Vallas, 69, is considered the conservative candidate in the April runoff, and has proposed investing one-third of all revenue from the new casino and retail sports-betting operations in Chicago into programs to prevent crime and restore neglected neighborhoods on the city’s South and West Sides.

Johnson, 46, was an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union and is viewed as the progressive candidate. His views on the casino are unknown.

Illinois-based Rush Street Gaming was initially considered the favorite to run the Chicago casino before Lightfoot chose Bally’s on May 5, 2022 after a competitive bidding process. Hard Rock International also was among the three finalists.

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