The Chicago City Council has approved Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s selection of Bally’s Tribune Center casino bid at 777 W Chicago Avenue in River West. Replacing the vacant printing plant, the decision comes just weeks after the mayor selected the proposal as the finalist from the original batch of five bids which was then narrowed down to three earlier this year. Rhode Island-based Bally’s is working with local architecture firm SCB on the riverfront project that gathered plenty of feedback and comments from both the community and the aldermen during the heated meeting.
Beating out bids from Hard Rock at One Central and Rivers at the 78, early rumors that the proposal was at the forefront of the race circled around when a West Loop committee met with the casino’s team and multiple developers announced plans for projects near the site. Although the vote marks the end of a 30-year long attempt to secure a gambling center in the city, in typical Chicago fashion it didn’t come without plenty of controversy. Most recently the decision was called out for being biased due to the city using the same law firm and gaming consultant that Bally’s had used on previous properties according to Crain’s.
Bally’s will be making an upfront payment of $40 million to the city as part of its bid, this will help settle debts owed for the pension funds of both the police and fire departments, with nearly $200 million a year in profits expected to come in once the final facility is completed. Other benefits expected are the creation of 6,000 jobs including union roles, a new workforce development program with City Colleges, and a commitment to hiring 15 percent of its employees from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Bally’s will be introduced to the city via its temporary location in the old Medinah Temple at 600 N Wabash Avenue in River North which will create a 45,000-square-foot casino, and two restaurants while the final facility is built. That will be a $1.7 billion, 1 million-square-foot structure anchored by a 37-story, 500-key hotel tower and the new casino holding 3,400 slots and 170 tables along with a 20,000-square-foot exhibition space, 70,000-square-foot entertainment center, multiple eateries including, and an outdoor concert venue, further information on the proposal can be found in our previous coverage here.
Offering the city’s only 24-hour liquor license paired with a 10 p.m. outdoor concert permit, the aldermen voiced their worries over crime, traffic, and negative impacts on property values and overall quality of life in the area, however the mayor remains strong behind the decision. All this in mind, the council voted 41-7 in agreement with the plan, this included the requirement for quarterly reports to them on the financials and progress of the property as well as their approval for any changes to the agreement or project scope.
However the casino hasn’t cleared all of its hurdles towards approval, it will now need to go in front of the state’s gambling committee later this year to ratify their license, although it is likely that they will win their approval as well. Bally’s will like to open their temporary facility by the summer of 2023 with the main complex expected in 2026, pending there are no hiccups along the way. Bally’s has promised to continue to work with the community while developing its final plans in the coming months.