Bally’s Chicago Casino Passes Another Zoning Hurdle

Written By Darren Cooper on December 14, 2022 - Last Updated on December 16, 2022
On Tuesday, Chicago's Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards committee endorsed the zoning plan for Bally's downtown casino.

Bally’s Illinois casino plan continues to grind its way through the Chicago political machine.

On Wednesday, Chicago City Council approved the zoning plan for the proposed Bally’s Chicago in River West.

The day before, the Chicago city committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards endorsed the zoning plan by a vote of 10-4.

Bally’s still needs approval from Illinois Gaming Board to proceed on the plan to build the largest Illinois casino

Illinois casino to be the largest

Long discussed and debated, Bally’s $1.7-billion-dollar project has the support of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who has earmarked the revenue for the city’s police and fire pension funds. Bally’s sent the city a $40 million check in June.

Phase one of Bally’s Chicago would include the casino, a smaller hotel (with a larger one in phase two), an events center, theatre and Riverwalk. There will also be an adjacent housing development.

Bally’s hopes to open the doors at one of its signature locations in 2026. In the meantime, the company is still waiting for approval from the Illinois Gaming Board for a casino license.

When that is approved, Bally’s plans to open a temporary casino at Medinah Temple on N. Wabash Street in 2023.

Hiring minority workers essential, says Alderman

On Monday, the city planning agency also approved the new zoning for the area at Chicago Avenue and Halstead Street by a vote of 12-1, but not without some questions.

Alderman Walter Burnett Jr., in whose ward the casino will land, expressed concern about Bally’s hiring practices and its relationship with the Chicago labor unions.

“I need to make sure that people from my community can get a job,” said Burnett Jr. in a story posted by the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday.

Burnett said he wanted a written commitment from the trade unions to help minority workers, but at Tuesday’s meeting, he backed off his complaints, saying he was satisfied with commitment from Bally’s.

“I know that I’m sure they don’t want to see me upset in the future,” said Burnett Jr. according to an ABC7 story. “They’re going to keep their commitment for hiring people in our neighborhood. So I feel confident that this is going to be OK.”

Christopher Jewett is the vice president of corporate development at Bally’s. He said that Bally’s would fulfill its pledges for minority hiring and contracting. Bally’s expressed the desire to see 46% of all construction contracts go to minority or woman-owned firms. At least 60% of the workers must be minorities.

Land deal complete to build Chicago casino

Bally’s has purchased the roughly 30-acre site that currently hosts a Chicago Tribune printing plant. It is unclear whether the printing plant will relocate or continue printing from a spot elsewhere on the site.

Bally’s has sold the area back to Chicago’s Oak Street Real Estate Capital company. Bally’s has a deal to lease the property for 99 years. Bally’s will use the lease payments to raise capital for development costs. The initial proposal calls for a 500-room hotel, a 3000-seat theatre, with 4,000 gaming positions inside.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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