The Chicago City Council has officially approved Bally’s Corporation plan for a casino and entertainment venue in River West. Planned for the west bank of the Chicago River between W. Chicago Ave and W. Grand Ave, the $1.7 billion venture will replace the Chicago Tribune printing plant.
Approved in a 41-7 vote by alderman, the process has been years in the making as mayor Lori Lightfoot has worked to bring a casino into the city as a new revenue stream to bridge the gap for underfunded police and fire pensions. Despite years of effort and an original five bids, Bally’s Corporation’s River West bid was announced as the winner just three weeks ago.
Bally’s casino will offer space for 3,400 slots as well as 170 table games, while the overall plan will go far beyond that. At the northern end of the site, the complex will host a hotel tower with 500 hotel keys. The entertainment complex will incorporate a 3,000-seat theater, a food hall with five restaurants, four bars including a rooftop bar and VIP lounge, an outdoor park, and an amenity terrace that will feature a large pool and spa, fitness center, and sun deck.
As part of the agreement with the city, Bally’s will pay $40 million upfront to the city, which has been allocated to the city’s pension funds according to the newly-passed agreement. From now on, Bally’s will pay $4 million annually to the city as part of the deal. The company has also reportedly committed $75 million towards infrastructure improvements around the casino site, including traffic signal synchronization and widening of adjacent roads. Once the casino is fully up and running, the city estimates an approximately $200 million annual benefit to the city.
Regarding job creation, Bally’s has completed an agreement with organized labor, committing to 60% minority hiring and will create a jobs program specifically targeting neighborhoods with the highest levels of unemployment and lowest income. On the terms of equity, Bally’s has provided a unique proposal concerning equity through a crowdfunding initiative, which includes the ability for small investors to leverage up their investment with non-recourse debt. The casino also will create opportunities for small, local restaurants and businesses to have business opportunities in the casino.
With final approval from City Council, the casino plan will now be sent to the Illinois Gaming Board for further vetting. In the meantime, Bally’s will set up a temporary casino at Medinah Temple until the full facility is built at the River West site. The temporary casino is planned for an estimated opening date of summer 2023.