Casino action is finally heading to Chicago – with Bally’s winning the bidding war to host the city’s first ever gaming establishment.
They were up against Hard Rock and Rush Street Gaming in the race for the Windy City’s first casino licence, and it was Bally’s who breezed home in the ‘preferred bidder’ contest.
Their proposal for the development of the Tribune Publishing Center site in River West was selected by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, although she and Bally’s will still need to secure the approval of the Chicago city council and the Illinois Gaming Board before the project can be green lit.
If/when approved, the casino would likely be readied in time to be opened in the first quarter of 2026, while Bally’s have also been given permission to try and convince officials to let them open a temporary casino at Medinah Temple until their River West establishment is finished.
Mayor Lightfoot was already looking forward to the economic gains that the casino could bring to the city’s coffers.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
A Perfect Union
Bally’s already own and manage 14 casinos in ten different states across America, but they have pledged to make Chicago the home of their ‘flagship’ site.
The blueprints for the build, which is set to cost an eye-watering $1.7 billion (£1.37 billion), include space for 3,400 slot machines and 170 table games, as well as a 3,000 seat entertainment venue, accommodation, six restaurants, spa and gym facilities and outdoor green space.
Bally’s have promised to make an upfront payment to Chicago’s council of $40 million, as well as an annual donation of $4 million to retain exclusivity on casino gaming in the city. Estimates suggest that the firm will also have to pay an annual tax bill of around $200 million based on revenues generated.
It is hoped that 3,000 construction workers will be contracted for the build, with a further 3,000 people employed permanently at the resort once it is up and running.
Even accounting for those encouraging numbers, it was still considered something of a surprise that Bally’s bested Chicago-based operator Rush Street Gaming in the bidding war. They already run four casinos – including the Rivers Casino Des Plaines in Illinois – and their vision for a $1.6 billion river-front establishment, covering some 62 acres, surely would have attracted interest.
However, it has since emerged that Bally’s were the only one of the three bidders to guarantee a labour deal – thought to be crucial in a city that is highly unionised.
“It means the attendant that parks your car, the dealer at the poker table, the server that brings your drinks….all of those workers will have a chance to earn family sustaining wages and benefits because of this agreement,” said Bob Reiter, President Chicago Federation of Labor.