It’s almost time for Bally’s to go all-in in Chicago.
The Illinois Gaming Board will begin a three-day period of assessments and testing at Medinah Temple, the temporary Bally’s casino in downtown Chicago, starting Sept. 5.
The state agency will begin its assessment before conducting two days of practice gaming sessions Sept. 6-7. If Bally’s meets the requirements of state rules and regulations, the IGB could then award Bally’s a temporary operating permit to conduct casino gaming. It is usually a short turnaround from IGB approval to the agency awarding the permit, meaning Bally’s could conduct live gaming before the end of next week if all goes well.
The assessment and testing are key steps in launching casino gaming in the third-largest city in the U.S., while Bally’s is also continuing progress toward its permanent venue in the River West neighborhood of Chicago.
Then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot picked Bally’s $1.7 billion proposal over competing bids from Hard Rock and Rush Street in May 2022, making it the city’s preferred operator. Bally’s submitted its application to the state for the casino license last August and was declared “preliminary suitable” in June, allowing it to move gaming equipment into Medinah Temple in the River North neighborhood.
Chicago was one of six locations granted new casino licenses as part of the 2019 gaming expansion bill that also legalized sports wagering in Illinois. Walker’s Bluff Casino in Williamson County opened Friday, the fourth such venue among the six to open its doors for gaming.
Rockford, Danville, and Waukegan also have operating casinos, with Hard Rock and Full House Resorts conducting gaming at temporary venues in Rockford and Waukegan, respectively. Golden Nugget opened its permanent casino in Danville in late May, while The Temporary by American Place opened in Waukegan in February. Hard Rock was the first to open a temporary revenue in November 2021, while Wind Creek has seen its targeted opening in suburban Cook County pushed back to early 2025.
High expectations for Bally’s to meet
The city of Chicago is counting on the taxes from Bally’s casino revenue to help fill some of the shortfalls in the city’s police and fire pensions. The temporary venue will deliver that on a smaller scale over the next two to three years, with Medinah Temple to contain nearly 800 slots and more than 55 table games in 34,000 square feet of gaming space spanning three floors.
During its conference call this month to discuss second quarter earnings, Bally’s projected its monthly revenue in the Chicago venue will be between $3.5 million to $5 million for the remainder of 2023 and between $50 million and $60 million in the entire 2024 fiscal year.
The casino is projected to make $800 million annually in revenue at full maturation, which would start in 2028, with the city receiving approximately $200 million in tax revenue should that projection be met. Bally’s has yet to decide if it will put any gaming positions at O’Hare or Midway airports, an option acquired as the city’s casino operator, but did note that possibility in its second quarter earnings presentation.
Though Bally’s is required to open a permanent venue within two years of Medinah Temple taking its first bets, Bally’s can — and is expected to — file for a 12-month good-faith extension similar to what Hard Rock and Full House did in June, as both those companies are in various stages of construction for their permanent venues.
Bally’s has yet to break ground at its permanent venue at the Freedom Center in River West, where the Chicago Tribune has its printing operations until next July.
Photo: Courtesy of Bally’s