Financial Firm’s Ties To Bally’s Raise Concerns For Chicago Casino

Written By Matt Boecker on May 13, 2022
Bally's Casino Tied To Union Gaming Firm

In early May, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her administration made the decision to let Bally’s contruct a new casino in Chicago. Bally’s beat out Rivers 78 and Hard Rock for the rights to build the casino.

Lightfoot and her team were in charge of sorting through the various proposals for the project. The group announced Bally’s as the winner last week after nearly seven months of reviewing the applications.

However, Bally’s has ties to a financial advisement company that are raising some eyebrows about how honest the selection process was.

Why did Bally’s win Chicago casino?

Bally’s won the Chicago casino bid for a handful of reasons.

First off, Bally’s presented the highest upfront payment to gain Chicago’s approval.

Bally’s offered $25 million to purchase the gaming license. No other company matched that number.

Secondly, Bally’s also had the most solidified labor agreement in place to construct their proposed casino. The Chicago City Council made it clear that it considered a labor agreement to be an important part of the process.

Lastly, Lightfoot and her team used projections from an outside company to see which casino would bring in the most revenue. The results of the projection showed that Bally’s would be the most financially advantageous choice for the city.

That likely made it an easy choice for Lightfoot to move forward with Bally’s, but it’s also where things start to get sticky.

An advisory firm named Union Gaming made those projections for Lightfoot and her team. Bally’s works directly with the company, and the connection between the two is starting to raise some concerns about exactly how accurate those predictions were.

Bally’s works with Union Gaming

According to its website, Union Gaming is an investment bank that focuses solely on the gaming industry. They advise and support institutional investors, governments and industry stakeholders.

Union Gaming helped raise $696 million for Bally’s last year. That’s no small chunk of change, which makes the company’s ties to Bally’s significant.

The prior connection between each side has some wondering if Bally’s received a generous revenue projection to help ensure they would be chosen by Lightfoot and the city of Chicago.

Ald. Brendan Reilly of Chicago’s 42nd Ward appeared on WGN Radio to discuss the situation.

“We’re being told to rely upon one analysis, one report, one revenue projection prepared by one company, Union Gaming, that the city enlisted to help us with the analysis. Turns out Union Gaming helped raise $700 million for Bally’s last year. Are we sure the data they’re presenting is accurate?”

The proposed location for Bally’s is River North, which Reilly has called a thriving, growing and densely-populated area. Reilly ultimately thinks a casino in the neighborhood would be a waste of economic development.

At the very least, he believes that Chicago should have used more than one financial report during its selection process. Especially since the one that the city ended up using had favorable ties to the winning company.

At least for now, the casino project is crawling ahead as planned.

The Chicago City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board still need to give Bally’s the thumbs up. That contentious process will take weeks, if not months to finally wrap up.

Photo by Associated Press
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Matt Boecker

Matt Boecker is a 2020 graduate of Northern Illinois University hailing from Chicago. Boecker specializes in coverage of sports betting and legalization. Former teammates and coworkers describe him as a nice guy who tries hard and loves the game.

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