Downtown Chicago casino operator Bally's on track to win City Council vote

May 21, 2022

Chicago City Council is poised to vote Wednesday on whether it will recommend Bally's for the downtown casino license to the Illinois Gaming Board. Hard Rock and Rush Street Gaming had proposed similar casino bids, but Bally's proposal won out.

Chairman of the Special Committee on the Chicago Casino, Alderman Tom Tunney, outlined the plan for the process on Friday, the committee's third meeting since its formation by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in March. Earlier that day, the full city council was scheduled to recess and reconvene on Monday afternoon.

Upon approval of Bally's $1.7 billion proposal for a casino in River West by the special committee, the full council will meet again Monday to โ€œdefer and publishโ€. This is a procedural step to give the city's 50 aldermen more time to examine the proposal and the Host Community Agreement between the city and Bally's.

In addition, the "defer and publish" procedure permits a full vote on the proposal on Wednesday when the next city council meeting takes place.

Some disagreement about Ballyโ€™s casino

Local residents are wary of Ballyโ€™s casino project. They fear that it may lead to higher crime rates, worse traffic, and declines in potential property value.

As part of the 2019 gaming expansion bill, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed one of the six new casino licenses for the downtown Chicago area. Sports betting was legalized under this bill. The casino is expected to generate $200 million in annual tax revenue for the city.

The revenue would be used to cover police and fire pension shortfalls. Due to the estimated loss of $331 million in annual gaming revenue to its neighbor Indiana, the city has emphasized the importance of moving quickly.

A $122 million gaming revenue generated by 11 casinos in Illinois resulted in $21 million in state taxes in April. The state tops the list for video gaming terminal play. Through the first four months of the year, this has led to an additional $258 million in state taxes.

Concerns about Medinah Temple area

Bally's proposal is mainly opposed by Alderman Brendan Reilly of the 42nd Ward. His ward includes Medinah Temple, where the casino is expected to open in 2023 if all goes well. He expressed concerns about possible crime around Medinah Temple, noting that the deadly mass shooting occurred four blocks from Madinah Temple on Thursday night.

Moreover, he was skeptical of the recently completed traffic study for Medinah Temple's neighborhood, which had not been done before it was chosen as the temporary casino site when Lightfoot chose Bally's Tribune's proposal as the city's preferred bid.

Having Reilly pressed him, Tunney refused to commit fully to voting on the Host Community Agreement at Monday's select committee meeting.

โ€œI am the chairman of the committee,โ€ Tunney said. โ€œI will get the temperature and figure out what the will of the body is and take one day at a time. I canโ€™t speak for the 33 or other members. You have obviously a lot of concerns, and rightly so. โ€ฆ Your points have helped the discussion.

โ€œI think by Monday Iโ€™ll get a sense of whether they (committee members) want to move it on Monday and I think weโ€™re going to do our due diligence over the weekend to try and make sure we get honest answers to the questions whether we agree with them or not.โ€

Gus Anderson
Gus Anderson is a gambling wizard. As a kid he dreamt about becoming a Tennis, Hockey and Golf professional but ended up as a gambling professional with focus on both sports & casino.