Less than a year after Chicago City Council approved Bally’s plans to build the largest Illinois casino, the gaming operator has announced a layoff of up to 15% of its workforce in its interactive division.
Bally’s Corporation informed employees of the decision, and filed a letter detailing the move with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, Jan. 19. The letter cited the slow growth of the North American interactive market as the reason for the layoffs.
In a message sent to employees, Bally’s CEO Lee Fenton also pointed to a hiring surge during the pandemic as a reason for the job loss.
“The pandemic boosted our business and we continued to hire at full pelt. I now can see that we may have over-hired in some areas and I take full responsibility for that,” Fenton said.
It’s unclear which branch of Bally’s will lose employees. But previous comments from Fenton put the company’s sportsbook, Bally Bet, on the hot seat.
Fenton has been outspoken in regards to the slow revenue growth from Bally Bet. During a November earnings conference call, Fenton said:
“Our progress on sports has taken longer than we expected and we will not support the sports iGaming markets with marketing dollars until we have got the user experience and the technology where we want it. We’ll be minimizing the losses related to sports betting – and in the end that’s what North America interactive should be.”
News likely puts Bally Bet Illinois sportsbook on hold
In November, PlayIllinois handicapped which sports betting operators we think are coming next to Illinois.
We pegged Bally Bet with the second-highest odds (3-1). Why? It has two options to tether an online sportsbook to one of its retail casino sites: Its existing Bally’s Quad City Casino and Hotel in Rock Island or its Bally’s Chicago casino.
In September, Bally’s applied to the Illinois Gaming Board for a sportsbook license. So, there’s an obvious interest and intent.
But, the latest layoff news and word that Bally’s is focusing on its online casino business may be a setback to any plans Bally’s has to launch an Illinois sportsbook in the short term.
Will Bally’s layoffs impact the Chicago casino?
In May 2022, Bally’s won the bidding process to open a casino in the River West district of the Windy City.
In November, Bally’s purchased the Chicago Tribune printing plant for $200 million. The 30-acre property is where the casino will stand in the future.
Then in December, Bally’s casino zoning plan received approval from the Chicago City Council. Now, Bally’s is just waiting on the green light from the IGB. Then it will break ground on what would be the largest casino in Illinois.
Given the continued progress from Bally’s, it’s unlikely the layoffs will impact the Chicago casino.
Plus, Bally Bet has seen great success and profits from its online casino. So Fenton has made it known that states with legal iGaming, or with prospects of allowing online casino gaming in 2023, would be a priority:
“iGaming states are our priority. We will focus resources in markets including Pennsylvania and Ontario, as well as states we believe will regulate iGaming in 2023,” Fenton said.
Many are speculating that Illinois online casinos will be legalized in 2023. It’s yet another reason to believe Bally’s casino Chicago isn’t going to lose any steam.