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City Approves Bally’s Redesigned Chicago Casino

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Bally’s announced Thursday that the redesigned plans for its $1.7 billion downtown casino to be built in the River West neighborhood of Chicago were approved by the city.

“Bally’s Chicago worked hand-in-hand for more than a year with various Chicago departments and agencies to adjust our site plan so essential infrastructure would be protected,” said a Bally’s Chicago Casino spokesperson. “Today’s approval on relocating the 100-room hotel above the casino adheres to all city requirements, maintains the same floor area ratio we committed to when Chicago selected Bally’s as its partner, and keeps us on track to start construction on time of our world-class entertainment complex in River West this summer.”

The gaming company had submitted new plans to various city departments late last month after it was determined that driving the caissons into the ground which would allow construction work to be carried out underwater could potentially damage municipal pipes. The plans submitted to Chicago’s Department of Buildings shows a potential area for the hotel tower to be built on the northwest part of the parcel near the intersection of West Chicago Avenue and North Halsted Street. That would be just west of the casino and separated from that building by an open-air park.

Construction still expected to begin in July

The 100-room hotel that is part of the first phase of construction is connected to the casino building but will be placed above the casino while facing the riverwalk. The 500-foot tower, which will have 400 hotel rooms, is part of the second phase of construction at the River West venue, which also features a 3,000-seat theater and 65,000-square-foot convention center.

The good news on the redesigned plans comes one day after the Illinois Gaming Board released casino revenue figures for January. While the IGB does not disclose gross gaming revenue, Bally’s said it surpassed $10 million for the first time since opening its temporary venue at Medinah Temple in late September.

The IGB reported Bally’s generated nearly $9.3 million in adjusted gross revenue, up 9.1% from December, which resulted in the city receiving nearly $913,000 in taxes. The uptick in revenue came despite an 11% decline in admissions, which Bally’s attributed to the inclement weather that comes with Chicago winters.

“Bally’s is pleased to announce the results of our phased opening of our Chicago property,” said Mark Wong, Vice President and General Manager. “January was our highest gaming revenue month to date, and we continue to see strong visitor counts.  More customers are taking advantage of our free parking and free shuttle service, which continues to grow in popularity. We look forward to implementing valet parking, introducing more shuttle and bus routes, and creating new VIP areas to meet customer demands.”

The 88,000-plus admissions and $4.2 million in table games revenue both ranked second in the state behind Rivers Casino in Des Plaines among the state’s 15 casinos.

In other Illinois casino news …

At its meeting Thursday in Chicago, the IGB unanimously voted to grant Full House Resorts an additional 18-month extension to operate its temporary casino — aptly named The Temporary — in Waukegan through August 2027. The second extension is a contingency of sorts, as the IGB is contending with a lawsuit filed by the Forest County Potawatomi Community against the IGB and the City of Waukegan regarding the bidding process for the Waukegan casino license.

Full House Chief Development Officer Alex Stolyar and American Place Casino Vice President Jeff Babinski made the request in-person to the IGB and presented an update as The Temporary nears completion on its first full year of operation. It had generated close to $83.2 million in adjusted gross revenue through 351 days of operation, which ranks fifth among the state’s 15 casinos in that span, and generated close to $19 million in state and local taxes.

Stolyar said The Temporary currently has 540 employees, a figure that will rise slightly with next week’s opening of a steakhouse on the premises. It has spent 40% of construction money thus far with MWDBE companies and nearly 50% in procurement through MWDBE vendors.

Full House Resorts became eligible for this 18-month extension after the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill 0584 during the November legislative veto session. That legislation included specific language to single out the Waukegan licensee due to the potential legal delays. Stolyar pointed out that if court proceedings go the IGB’s favor, Full House would strive to open the permanent casino before the August 2027 deadline.

The bill passed in November became necessary after a state appellate district court’s decision in August reversed a December 2021 decision that dismissed the Forest County Potawatomi Community’s lawsuit due to lack of standing. The case is now before the Illinois State Supreme Court and could be heard as early as March 11, which is the next date the judicial body will convene after the lawsuit was not taken up in January’s session.

The Potawatomi Tribe claimed then-Mayor Sam Cunningham authorized a “rigged process” in which the Potawatomi Community was not among the three bidders the city forwarded to the IGB in November 2019 for selection, despite ranking first or second in most metrics of the application process. It originally bid $5.6 million to buy the plot of land for the proposed casino, the lowest among the four bids, but then submitted a supplemental bid of $12 million that it claimed was not considered.

The tribe’s lawsuit, which was filed in October 2019 and caused a delay in determining the winning bid, was dismissed by Cook County Circuit Judge Cecilia Horan on Dec. 7, 2021.

In-story images courtesy Bally’s Casino; lead photo Getty Images

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