License Pending For Bally’s Massive Chicago Casino

Written By Dave Briggs on August 11, 2022 - Last Updated on August 12, 2022

Bally’s is one step closer to a possible Illinois casino in Chicago’s River West district.

The Illinois Gaming Board’s website lists Bally’s as a “pending license.”

The city of Chicago has already approved Bally’s $1.7 billion casino project, which is the latest step in making that reality. As it stands now, there are 11 casinos in Illinois, with five more under construction (that includes Bally’s in Chicago).

The latest projections have the massive downtown casino project opening in 2025.

In the meantime, Bally’s plans to open a temporary casino at Medinah Temple in the area. That could open as soon as 2023.

Chicago casino could deliver $400 million in revenue yearly

A May 5 Casino Recommendation Report prepared by the City of Chicago said:

“A Chicago-based casino is estimated to generate approximately $400 million annually in tax revenues for the City and the State of Illinois (the “State”) over time. The City’s share is projected to be approximately $200 million per year over time.”

These revenue projections include non-gaming revenues such as:

  • Sales
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Income and property tax revenues for Chicago
  • Property tax revenues for other taxing bodies, including $11 million to $19 million annually for Chicago Public Schools
  • The Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan will receive the state’s share of casino revenue.

But not everyone agrees a downtown Chicago casino will be that lucrative.

Ald. Brendan Reilly was one of three “no” votes during the casino committee’s meeting. 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 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.”

A project so big Wall Street is concerned

Wall Street is also concerned. Building a casino in downtown Chicago is a huge undertaking.

In the past, Bally’s has essentially purchased existing gaming properties, not built a huge casino from scratch. Bally’s is taking on a massive amount of debt for this project.

And Wall Street investors are worried about the implications of a $1.7 billion project on the company’s financial health.

So much so that Fitch Ratings and S&P lowered their outlook to negative on debt issued by Bally’s. But, if successful, the project could be a boon to both Bally’s and Illinois’s citizens.

Bally’s still needs IGB approval before they break ground on the project. Casino officials will meet with local groups before sending in the final proposal.

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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in North America with an emphasis on the casino, sports betting, horse racing and poker sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Illinois and Canada.

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