Bally’s in River West wins the jackpot as Chicago’s first casino

Bally’s Casino will be built at the Tribune Publishing site at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street (Rendering by Bally’s/SCB)

Bally’s Casino is coming to Chicago.

The city has chosen Bally’s Corporation to be the recipient of its sole casino license and the developer to create a world-class casino-resort and entertainment experience in Chicago on the site of the Tribune Publishing Center.  

“I am proud to announce that Bally’s Corporation will create a world-class entertainment district in our city that will delight residents and tourists alike,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Following significant analyses and community input on all aspects of our three finalists for Chicago’s casino license, the selection committee and I have chosen Bally’s to move forward in the development of the City’s first integrated casino resort. We are confident that Bally’s Tribune Publishing Center development will shore up the City’s pension funds, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and lead to a bright financial future for our city.”  

The proposal from Bally’s entails a $1.7 billion casino project and hotel on a portion of the current industrial Tribune Publishing Center. This includes a 3,000-seat theater; an Immerse Agency exhibition experience; an extension of the Riverwalk; pedestrian bridge; a 500-room hotel tower; an outdoor park; an outdoor music venue; an amenity terrace featuring a large pool spa, fitness center and sun deck; and six restaurants, cafes and a food hall. The casino will offer space for 3,400 slots and 170 table games. Bally’s Corporation projected the development will add more than 3,000 construction jobs annually and 3,000 permanent casino jobs.  

“We would like to thank Mayor Lightfoot and her office for conducting a tough, but fair, RFP process, and selecting Bally’s Chicago as the final bidder for the City’s casino,” said Chairman of Bally’s Corporation Board of Directors Soo Kim. “Chicago is a unique and vibrant city, deserving of world-class gaming and entertainment destination that is of, by, and for the people by driving the local economy, supporting local labor, creating multigenerational wealth for minority investors, and showcasing the best of what the City has to offer. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with Mayor Lightfoot, and all of our valued community partners on this exciting endeavor.” 

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The City selected Bally’s Corporation Tribune proposal as it met or exceeded core goals outlined by the casino selection committee, including:  

  • Economic and Financial Benefits to the City: Bally’s offered the strongest overall financial offer to the City. Bally’s provided a $40 million upfront payment at the time of the signing of the Host Community Agreement along with $4 million annually per year thereafter.  Bally’s has also provided the highest minimum capital commitment to the project, and is the only submitting operator that did not have a competing casino in the Chicagoland region.  
  • Job Creation: Bally’s has completed an agreement with organized labor, which the City deems necessary for this process to move forward. Bally’s will commit to 60% minority hiring and will create a jobs program specifically targeting neighborhoods with the highest levels of unemployment and lowest income. The jobs program also will include clear career pathways for upward mobility.  
  • 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. 
  • Design, Planning, Amenities, and Transportation: The casino is proposed on a site that sits within an important land-use transition zone, with several large-scale existing industrial and commercial uses nearby that will continue to provide critical services to the City.  
  • Site: Bally’s will be purchasing the entire Tribune site and is, therefore, flexible in how the other parcels within this planned development can be redeveloped; the company has committed to take input from the community for these pieces. 
  • Temporary Casino: Bally’s anticipates operating a temporary casino at the Medinah Temple. This was chosen due to its proximity to major transit and retail/hospitality corridors, as well as its ability to assist in the City’s post-Covid revitalization. 

The Casino was welcomed by Chicago Aldermen and businesses alike. “As the voice of Chicago’s business community, the Chamber supports the Chicago casino and its impact on our city,” said Jack Lavin, President, and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

“Chicago Police and fire departments are in dire need of financial support, and the revenue generated by the casino will pay the pensions for both,” said Alderman Derrick Curtis, 18th Ward.

“North Branch Works welcomes Bally’s Casino and appreciates the 2,000 permanent jobs the project will create,” said North Branch Works Executive Director Jonathan Snyder. “We applaud Bally’s commitment to hiring locally and for going above and beyond the minimum requirements for M/WBE participation. We look forward to working with the administration, Alderman Walter Burnett, and the team at Bally’s to ensure the new development integrates into the North Branch Industrial Corridor and surrounding communities.” 

“A Chicago casino will provide a real boost to the City’s revenues by $200 million to support police and fire pension funds as well as to the State’s revenues by $200 million to support capital improvement projects statewide,” said Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole. “Even more importantly, the casino will create thousands of new jobs and repatriate gaming revenues going to fund Indiana essential services.  This is clearly an important project for both the City and the State.” 

“A world-class casino in Chicago is now one step closer to reality,” said President and CEO of Illinois Restaurant Association Sam Toia. “We are thrilled that Bally’s will be working with local restaurants to highlight our renowned culinary scene. This attraction will help make Chicago an even bigger draw for domestic and international travelers, which will greatly benefit our hospitality community.”