Bally’s became Chicago’s first casino when the temporary property opened a few weeks ago. Bally’s took over the former Medinah Temple for its temporary casino, which is expected to operate until 2026.
I went to Bally’s Chicago on a Tuesday afternoon. Here are my observations from the latest Illinois casino:
Getting to Bally’s Chicago
In three years, Bally’s expects to open its permanent property in River West. The $1.7 billion resort will be the largest Illinois casino once it goes online in three years. Until then, we have Bally’s in downtown Chicago to enjoy.
I live in the Lakeview/Lincoln Park area, so I hopped on the Red Line. A few quick stops deposited me at Grand Avenue. From there, it was just a two-minute walk to the new casino.
Other transportation options surrounding Bally’s Chicago are plentiful. It’s less than a block from numerous bus stops, including State & Ontario (routes 36 and 125), Grand & State (route 65), and Michigan & Ohio (which serves 10 bus routes).
During my quick walk around the block, I saw multiple parking garages. A handful were just across the street from Bally’s. Many of the lots have been quick to cash in on the new Windy City destination, boasting signs that say “Casino Parking” near their entrances. Signing up for a Bally Rewards card and playing at the casino can earn you free parking.
Out-of-towners staying nearby will find the area completely walkable. There’s an easy drop-off point for rideshare services or taxis.
Bally’s Chicago at a glance
- Address: 600 N Wabash
- Accessible by: Car, rideshare, CTA buses and trains
- Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily
- Games: Slots, tables, video poker, sportsbook (not open yet)
My first reaction on entering Bally’s Chicago was a feeling of surrealness
Upon walking into the casino, my first thought was, “Wow.” It felt surreal to be in a proper casino in Chicago.
If you’re native to the area and like to gamble, you’ve probably ventured to Rivers Casino in Des Plaines or one of the northern Indiana casinos such as Horseshoe Hammond. They have the distinct feel of a casino: cool air, ringing and dinging, and a conspicuous absence of clocks.
But those suburban (or beyond) properties require a trip out of the city. What I’m trying to say is there’s a certain magic to disembarking the train, strolling down Wabash and walking through the doors of a real, full-fledged Chicago casino.
Playing games at Bally’s Chicago
My wife told me I could gamble only as much as I expected to earn by writing this story. I won’t tell you how much that was, nor will I tell you whether I stuck to it. Pleading the Fifth should be answer enough, and I’d also like it known she gave me permission to make this joke.
I used said “budget” to play a handful of slots and give my favorite table game – the perennially underrated Mississippi Stud – a try.
At the Mississippi Stud table, the dealer was kind and helpful. I was the only one at the table (see previous parenthetical about the game being underrated). It made me miss the days of $5 minimum Mississippi Stud play, which seem really far behind us. This table had a $10 minimum, but it was fun. The dealer handled everything perfectly. Once again, I felt that magical rush of playing at Chicago’s first-ever casino.
Next, I hit the slots, including Heidi’s Bier Haus Oktoberfest, Attack From The Planet Moolah and Rich Little Piggies Meal Ticket. All three were a great time, operating on the latest tech and game cabinets. The one downside here is that fans of older slot games may not find their favorite. Because it’s a new casino, most of the games are brand-spankin’ new. I love cutting-edge games, so it was a plus in my book, but your mileage may vary.
This didn’t feel worth its own section, but one added benefit comes via Bally Rewards. If you bring your player’s card from another nearby casino, Bally’s Chicago will match your tier level.
Bally’s has a few food options
Going to the casino after lunch and a dentist appointment meant I was operating on a full stomach and a low appetite. The result was a cursory glance at each dining option without a hands-on taste test. The first floor has the Wabash Cafe, a grab-and-go-style restaurant with a few sandwiches and sides.
Floor 2’s Kitchen 888 serves Asian cuisine, including dim sum, noodle dishes and stir fry. Medinah Bistro is the third-floor restaurant. It serves a small tasting menu including a club sandwich, nachos and chicken wings.
Layout, ambiance and atmosphere
Bally’s fills three floors of the former Medinah Temple. The first floor has slots, slots and more slots. The gaming floor surrounds a large open area that looks down on a lower level. During my visit, a muralist was working on a stunning piece that covered most of a curved wall. It’s bound to be a gorgeous centerpiece of the property when finished.
The escalators and elevator are neatly tucked back near the rear end of the casino floor, a smart decision because they’d otherwise feel like an eyesore. Plus, I’m sure the casino is thrilled patrons must walk through the aisles of slots to reach higher floors. Right near the entrance is a fully-stacked bar.
Floor 2 is a healthy mix of slots and table games. Roulette, Mississippi Stud and Ultimate Texas Hold’em were among the table games on offer. I made a beeline for Heidi’s Bier Haus Oktoberfest, a personal favorite slot, the second I saw it on the second level. About half the tables games were open, but it was easy to envision a fully stacked casino floor on a more crowded day.
The third floor hosts more table games and a smattering of additional slot games. There’s also a dedicated sportsbook space, but it isn’t open yet, so I couldn’t get a good look. The Medinah Bistro also calls the third floor home alongside an attached bar. This floor was by far the most bustling. I think it owes that to the presence of numerous blackjack tables. The crowds seemed in good spirits, unlike me after a rough bout with Heidi’s Bier Haus.
The staff of the casino were kind, smiley and helpful. The ID check was fast and painless, and the person at the scanner wished me good luck as I walked in. The rest of the staff was equally kind.
One of my favorite details was the preserved stained-glass artwork along the facade of the building. It felt like a unique way to pay homage to the building’s illustrious history in the modern era.
Had my budget not been swirling near the bottom of a German beer stein, I would’ve found it incredibly easy to cash out at Bally’s Chicago. There are numerous Everi cash-out machines on each floor, and they also function as ATMs. There are also physical cashier windows for cashing in your chips or tickets.
My final thoughts on Bally’s Chicago
After a few hours at Chicago’s first casino, I can confidently say it’s pretty dang cool. Fans of casino games will be drawn in by the easy-to-reach location and impressed by the wide variety of games on offer.
I wish some of the minimums were lower, but that seems like too much to ask for a casino in River North.
Bally’s easily checks every other box thanks to its game selection, kind staff and interesting layout.