Chicago’s first retail casino could open this weekend. Bally’s temporary casino at the Medinah Temple may welcome its first customers in just a few days, provided this week’s trial runs go well.
Before Bally’s Chicago will be allowed to open for real, it must first pass an Illinois Gaming Board review. The process includes “supervised practice gaming sessions with about 350 guests,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. If the trial run goes off without a hitch, the temporary property could open as soon as Saturday, Sept. 9. The IGB inspections will take place Sept. 6 and 7.
Permanent Bally’s Chicago set to open in 2026
Illinois casinos currently number 14. The largest will be the Bally’s Chicago permanent casino in downtown Chicago when it is completed. The $1.75 billion resort complex will be on 30 acres. When Bally’s Chicago opens its temporary casino, it will host approximately 750 slot games and 50 table games. The casino will employ 500 workers.
Bally’s temporary casino in the Medinah Temple has been a long time coming. Significant progress toward the opening first came in February, when the site garnered approval and the IGB granted supplier licenses to groups working on the casino.
Earlier this summer, the expected grand opening was pushed back from mid-August to September, giving Bally’s some extra time to prepare. Now, all appears on track for an imminent opening.
All the hurdles and hoops for the temporary property are just window-dressing compared to the project ahead. Bally’s intends to break ground on its permanent River West site in 2024. The opening of the permanent casino and entertainment complex is slated for 2026, barring any major delays or setbacks.
The River West site was owned by Nextar Media, parent company of the Chicago Tribune. The publishing company will receive a payout from Bally’s to move from the property early and forgo rights to remain at the site for up to 10 more years. Bally’s will raze the buildings and begin construction shortly after the Tribune vacates.
Bally’s temporary casino has both supporters and opponents
Even a few days out from its potential opening, Bally’s Chicago is still divisive. Some neighbors and business owners look forward to the increased foot traffic and revenue, while others are hesitant to embrace a Chicago casino.
Robert Komar, general manager of Pizzeria Uno next to the Bally’s, told CBS News Chicago he’s excited to see the casino open.
“We’re one of few restaurants right outside [Bally’s] door. It’s a good thing.”
Deborah Gershbein, president of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, has concerns.
“Chicago can do better than this. We don’t need to look at gambling as a resource to raise funds for the city.”
Gershbein also is worried about traffic, noting that Bally’s sits on the main arteries from the expressway to the downtown area.
Bally’s, for its part, claims it is ready to assist the city in quelling any traffic and safety problems.