Bally’s reveals Chicago casino financing to Nevada Gaming Control Board

March 6, 2024 8:30 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
March 6, 2024 8:30 PM

Bally’s informed Nevada regulators Wednesday about their plans for a downtown Chicago casino. The company also told the Gaming Control Board that it continues to seek financing for that project as it operates a temporary casino.

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The temporary casino at Medinah Temple, which opened in September, had the third-highest gaming revenue among 16 Illinois casinos in January at $9.3 million, and recorded the second-highest number of visits from gamblers.

“We’ve seen, from September onward to January, that we’ve made tremendous progress in capturing our team-member enthusiasm, followed by customer acquisitions,” said Ameet Patel, senior vice president and regional general manager of the western region for Bally’s. “Every month, we’re adding between 10,000 and 12,000 people to the database. We have more than 60,000 names now and when you look at our growth pattern, despite the harsh winter weather impacting business, we continue to grow our revenue base. There’s a lot of optimism and enthusiasm for our permanent project. We expect to have shovels in the ground sometime this summer.”

Bally’s Chicago casino opened with more than 700 employees and will have 4,000 positions for the new property in the River West neighborhood. When it debuts in September 2026, it will have a 100-room hotel on the 30-acre site, a 3,000-seat theater, museum, and riverwalk as part of a holistic entertainment space.

Marcus Glover, Bally’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, said the temporary casino has started to gain some momentum as people give it a try. They hope to gain some “stickiness” from that. And while it’s a temporary facility in downtown Chicago, it doesn’t look that way based on the finishes and how quickly it opened.

Bally’s had to change its initial design for the new casino over concerns that the project, with a 400-room hotel tower in a second phase of construction, would damage water pipes. The 100-room hotel is above the casino. It has yet to be decided where a 400-room hotel tower will be built.

“We don’t expect to change the integrity of the operation,” Glover said. “It will still be positioned as a super-regional with all the amenities. It will not be just gaming, but an entertainment complex.”

Bally’s is working on shoring up financing.

“We’re pretty far along in conversations with a potential partner,” Glover said. “We have a $500 million facility in place, of which we’ve tapped $250 million for land so far. We’re buying out the (Chicago) Tribune site, which will be the location of the permanent casino. We have $800 million of the $1.1 billion balance left on the project, and we have a funding gap that we’re trying to solve for $800 million. We feel pretty good about those conversations and that being resolved by hopefully summer of this year.”

Glover said they can’t access the site and begin work until the Tribune vacates the property, the site of its printing plant, in July.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Kirk Hendrick credited Bally’s for pivoting with the water-pipe issue and retaining the project.

“The biggest impact while we had to change was going to be the hotel tower,” Glover said. “Fortunately for us, we’re surrounded by a pretty robust hotel district. We’ll continue to see if we can reinvent that hotel tower, which we plan to do, but we can also tap into the local inventory to still bring the experience we were planning to do irrespective of that pivot. We feel pretty good about things.”