Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the Bally’s proposal as her final selection for a Chicago casino Thursday.
The decision comes just days after Mayor Lightfoot pushed back on reports that a decision had already been made.
The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that the company’s CEO arrived in Chicago to meet with the mayor.
“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 Soo Kim, chairman of Bally’s Corporation Board of Directors. “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 development would replace the Chicago Tribune printing plant along the Chicago River at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street in River West.
Bally’s plan not only includes a casino, but also a 3,000-seat theater, a Chicago sports museum, a hotel, restaurants and more.
The city said it selected Bally’s Corporation Tribune proposal as it met or exceeded core goals outlined by the casino selection committee, including:
– Economic and Financial Benefits to the City: Bally’s offered the strongest overall financial offer to the city. Bally’s provided a $40 million upfront payment at the time of the signing of the Host Community Agreement along with $4 million annually per year thereafter. Bally’s has also 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.
– Job Creation: Bally’s has completed an agreement with organized labor, which the city deems necessary for this process to move forward. Bally’s will commit to 60% minority hiring and will create a jobs program specifically targeting neighborhoods with the highest levels of unemployment and lowest income. The jobs program also will include clear career pathways for upward mobility.
– Equity: Bally’s has provided a unique proposal concerning equity through a crowdfunding initiative, which includes the ability for small investors to leverage up their investment with non-recourse debt. The casino also will create opportunities for small, local restaurants and businesses to have business opportunities in the casino.
– Design, Planning, Amenities, and Transportation: The casino is proposed on a site that sits within an important land-use transition zone, with several large-scale existing industrial and commercial uses nearby that will continue to provide critical services to the city.
– Site: Bally’s will be purchasing the entire Tribune site and is, therefore, flexible in how the other parcels within this planned development can be redeveloped; the company has committed to take input from the community for these pieces.
– Temporary Casino: Bally’s anticipates operating a temporary casino at the Medinah Temple. This was chosen due to its proximity to major transit and retail/hospitality corridors, as well as its ability to assist in the city’s post-COVID revitalization.
The other two finalists for a casino were the Rivers 78 just southwest of Roosevelt and Clark, and the Hard Rock Chicago just across DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Soldier Field.
In a statement, Hard Rock said, “The Hard Rock brand is currently expanding its portfolio of casinos, hotels and cafes in 72 different markets around the world. We were honored to have been named a finalist for the Chicago casino.”
The Bally’s casino would make River West a whole lot busier, and that is not sitting well with residents.
“I don’t think it would be really good for the homeowners here due to the traffic, possible crime that could happen, and it just doesn’t fit the neighborhood,” resident Tom Radojicic said.
Many voiced their opposition in a recent neighborhood survey.
The Chicago City Council must first approve the decision, then the Illinois Gaming Board has the final say.
If it is approved, Bally’s plan would be to open a temporary casino on the site by 2023, and the permanent casino would open in 2026.
-ABC and The Tribune