One Millionth Visitor Celebrated At Bally’s Chicago

Written By Phil West on July 1, 2024
Champagne glasses clink symbolizing Bally's Chicago's one millionth visitor

It took just nine months for Bally’s Chicago at Medinah Temple to welcome visitor No. 1,000,000.

The casino announced in a press release Wednesday that Don Neushwander and his partner, Hwa, from Morris, Ill., walked in together and were awarded the grand prize of a Carnival cruise for two, $1,000 cash, and dinner for two at one of Bally’s restaurants. Other casino patrons won free T-shirts for being there on the momentous day.

Bally's Chicago 1 millionth customer

Bally’s posts impressive admissions, revenue numbers

In May, the casino generated the third-most revenue of Illinois’ 15 casinos in its best-ever month since opening. Bally’s reported more than $11.73 million in total adjusted gross revenue, up from a little more than $10.35 million the month before, representing about a 13% month-over-month uptick.

The press release also noted that, since opening last September, Bally’s Chicago has consistently had the second-most admissions of any casino in the state. Monthly admissions increased 48% between September 2023 and May 2024.

That led Mark Wong, vice president and general manager of Bally’s Chicago, to observe, “In short order, our temporary Bally’s Chicago Casino is on track to have as many annual visitors as popular attractions like the Griffin Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Bally’s said it has “safely hosted 1 million visitors without disruption to the River North community” and that “the casino collaborates regularly with the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Fire Department to proactively provide for visitor and resident safety, as well as mitigate any impact on traffic.”

George Papanier, president of Bally’s Corporation, extended the company’s thanks to the first responders, including Chicago Police, Chicago Fire, and on-site Illinois gaming agents, “who maintain public safety and add to the vibrant recovery of River North and the Magnificent Mile.”

Plans for casino’s permanent home proceed despite obstacles

The casino is beginning preparations for a permanent home at the Tribune Publishing complex at 700 W. Chicago Ave, with demolition of the existing building slated to start next month. But as PlayIllinois recently reported, several obstacles remain despite Bally’s continued optimism that the planned $1.7 billion project will be completed by September 2026.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, among others, has expressed concerns about whether Bally’s can complete construction, initially slated to start July 5, amid reports of an $800 million funding gap. Contractually, Bally’s must spend a minimum of $1.34 billion on the project.

Earlier this year, Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim and Standard General, the private equity fund he established, offered to take Bally’s private at $15 per share to help raise the capital for the project. In the wake of that news, investors pushed back against the plan, and Wall Street credit rating agencies downgraded Bally’s.

Even the demolition could be complicated, with the Chicago Department of Public Health calling it an “environmentally complex” project requiring it “to review and inspect the site for potential health and environmental impacts” before any permitting happens.

Provided the permits come through, the demolition is expected to take at least five months, even with workers on an 8 a.m.-to-8 p.m. schedule seven days a week.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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