Bally’s Corp Wins the Sole Casino License to Build a Land Casino in Chicago

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The office of Chicago Mayor, Lori E. Lightfoot, announced the selection of Bally’s Corporation as the recipient of its sole casino license on May 5, 2022. The project entails a $1.7bn casino and hotel on a portion of the current industrial Tribune Publishing Center. It is set to generate more than 3,000 construction jobs annually and 3,000 permanent operational jobs to create a world-class entertainment destination.

The windy city has not had a casino despite efforts for over three decades. An initiative was launched over a year ago called Request For Proposals (RFP), which would eventually award one operator with its single casino license in downtown Chicago. After months of public comment, proposals, opposition, and support, Bally’s beat out bids by Hard Rock and Rivers to secure the license.

Mayor Lightfoot’s office said it selected Bally’s proposal as it met or exceeded core goals outlined by the casino selection committee, including: economic and financial benefits to the city, job creation, equity measures, meeting design, planning, amenities, and transportation standards.

According to the city, Bally’s provided the highest minimum capital commitment to the project, and is the only submitting operator that did not have a competing casino in the Chicagoland region.

Mayor Lightfoot said in a statement. “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. 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.”

Bally’s provided a $40m upfront payment at the time of the signing of the Host Community Agreement, and committed to paying $4m per year thereafter. It will also commit to 60% minority hiring and will create a jobs program for “career pathways for upward mobility” specifically targeting neighborhoods with the highest levels of unemployment and lowest income.

While the casino will offer space for 3,400 slots and 170 table games, the project is slated to include a 3,000-seat theatre, an Immerse Agency exhibition experience, an extension of the Riverwalk, a pedestrian bridge, a 500-room hotel tower, an outdoor park, an outdoor music venue, an amenity terrace featuring a large pool spa, a fitness centre and sun deck, and six restaurants, cafes and a food hall.

Soo Kim, Chairman of the Bally’s Corporation Board of Directors, said, “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. 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.”

Illinois Municipal League Executive Director, Brad Cole, said a Chicago casino will provide a “real boost” to the city’s revenues, including a projected $200m to support police and fire pension funds, as well as $200m to the government of Illinois to support capital improvement projects state-wide. He stated, “Even more importantly, the casino will create thousands of new jobs and repatriate gaming revenues going to fund Indiana essential services.”

Other official statements by various stakeholders can be read here.

Clearly an important project for both the city and the state, The City believes that the casino project will meaningfully support Chicago’s tourism industry, finances, job growth, and economic development in addition to enhancing property values in the surrounding area.