Mayor Lightfoot picks Bally's to win first casino license in Chicago

May 6, 2022

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Thursday that the city had its final casino bidder: Bally’s. This decision was made after the mayor had a meeting with Bally’s CEO on Wednesday.

"I am proud to announce that Bally's Corporation will create a world-class entertainment district in our city that will delight residents and tourists alike," she said.

Several sources were of the opinion that Bally’s would win the final approval long before this, though Lightfoot never confirmed anything.

Before this, Bally’s was reported to have proposed a $25 million investment in Chicago. This was before Lightfoot made another announcement that she had increased the stake to $75 million or the alternative of making an upfront payment of $40 million and $2 million the following year.

Lightfoot’s reasons

The approval for Bally’s construction at the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center in River West was pushed forward despite concerns from the community. In an April survey, the River North Residents Association says that 86% of nearly 2,000 respondents opposed the idea of building a casino adjacent to their neighborhood.

However, Lightfoot gave explanations regarding the decision. She said that Bally’s offered the strongest financial package compared to its competitors, Hard Rock and Rush Street Gaming. Specifically, it agreed to meet the requirements of paying $40 million upfront.

"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," said Lightfoot.

"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."

In addition to the monetary values, Bally’s was reported to be the only one of the three bidders to agree to the labor peace deal.

President of the Chicago Federation of Labor Bob Reiter said, "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."

Bally’s $1.7 billion plan

Bally’s plans to build a 500-room hotel, 10 restaurants and bars, and a 3,000-seat theater at the casino and resort. The venue is expected to open in 2026. In the meantime, Bally’s will be opening a temporary casino at the Medinah Temple next year.

"We would like to thank Mayor Lightfoot and her office for conducting a tough, but fair, RFP process, and selecting Bally's Chicago as the final bidder for the City's casino," said Bally's Corporation Board of Directors Chairman Soo Kim.

The development would take place at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street in River West, replacing what used to be the Chicago Tribune printing plant by the Chicago River.

Kim added, "Chicago is a unique and vibrant city, deserving of world-class gaming and entertainment destination that is of, by, and for the people by driving the local economy, supporting local labor, creating multigenerational wealth for minority investors, and showcasing the best of what the City has to offer.

"We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with Mayor Lightfoot, and all of our valued community partners on this exciting endeavor."

The plan is yet to be approved by the Chicago City Council before being passed to the Illinois Gaming Board. Despite community concerns, Soo Kim said he is ready to win their approval.

Jake Williams
Jake Williams is a sports gambling expert. He's been writing in the sports betting and DFS industry for over a decade. He specializes in MLB and NBA, along with College Basketball and College Football.