The Chicago City Council just approved the plans for Bally’s to build a new casino downtown.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot was eager to put things to a vote by May 25, so at least for now, everything is going according to plan.
The rubber stamp from the City Council comes just a few days after a special Chicago casino committee approved the Bally’s application.
City Council approves casino plans
The City Council’s 41-7 vote to approve the casino plans is a massive win for Bally’s. The company is now one big step closer to starting construction on its Chicago casino.
Mayor Lightfoot and the casino committee had already given the plans the green light, but that wasn’t the final step of the process. Things can finally move forward now that the city council is on board.
The $1.7 billion property in River West won’t be open for business until 2026, but Bally’s will be opening a temporary casino in the meantime. That temporary building hopes to be up and running in 2023.
The Bally’s casino plans managed to slide past the city council, but things didn’t exactly go off without a hitch.
Mayor Lightfoot pushes for vote
The entire Chicago casino process has been under the microscope from local officials.
Mayor Lightfoot has been eager to speed the process along, in part because of the upfront payment that Bally’s is offering.
That $40 million payment will help stave off a pre-election property tax increase in the city. The cash influx will also help keep the ball rolling for police and fire pensions this year.
The need for that money led to Lightfoot stepping on the gas for the casino project.
However, some officials believe that things are moving too quickly.
Ald. Brendan Reilly was one of three “no” votes during the casino committee’s meeting earlier this week. He argued that the city should take more time to evaluate such a huge project with massive financial implications.
Specifically, Reilly questioned the revenue projections for the Bally’s casino, which passed through the City Council without much scrutiny.
“This casino needs to generate about $550,000 a day in taxes. For that to happen, the casino would have to win $1.4 million a day all 365 days-per-year, with no accounting for snow, protests, crime, January and February in Chicago every year, etc. Assuming every patron wagers $3,000 daily, which is never gonna happen, the casino will need to see 9,300 patrons every day of the year. Given the number of casino positions, that’s not likely to happen.”
Reilly raised the issue again before the City Council vote today, but his points were not enough to delay the casino process any further. The plans passed easily during the full vote.
“That’s some pretty rosy math and I have an issue with that,” Reilly said.
What’s next for Bally’s casino?
With approval from the city in hand, the next step for the casino project is to hash things out with the Illinois Gaming Board. The IGB runs the show when it comes to gambling in the state, so the board gets the final say in whether or not the River West plans check enough boxes.
It could take the gaming board weeks to review the Bally’s application.
If everything goes according to plan, then the IGB will issue Bally’s a license. That’s when the project will really start to pick up steam.
A license opens the door for the company to start construction on its temporary casino. Since the permanent building will take years to complete, getting the temporary one up and running will be an important part of holding down the fort.