Bally’s Chair Soo Kim, Chicago Mayor Lightfoot Set to Discuss Casino Plan

Posted on: May 5, 2022, 04:55h.

Last updated on: May 5, 2022, 01:19h.

The Windy City may have found the company to operate its casino.

Bally's Tribune rendering
A rendering of Bally’s proposed casino at the current site of the Chicago Tribune publishing plant. On Wednesday, Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim arrived in the Windy City in advance of a reported meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday. (Image: Bally’s)

Bally’s Corp. Chairman Soo Kim landed in Chicago Wednesday with plans to meet with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reported. The paper reported if all goes as expected, the Chicago leader would pick the Rhode Island-based company for the city’s casino license.

I feel optimism,” Kim told the Tribune. “There’s still a few issues that we have to sort out. But everyone thought that it was worth doing in person. We’re moving towards it.”

But, according to published reports, a Bally’s casino at its proposed site on the Near North Side still must overcome neighborhood and political opposition before work can start on the $1.74 billion project.

Last month the River North Residents Association, a group representing a neighborhood located just east and across the Chicago River from the proposed casino site, started a survey seeking input on the project. By the end of last month, more than 2,300 residents responded, and more than four out of five said they strongly opposed the project. Just 7.5% strongly supported it.

The top concerns for residents against the project include fears a casino would lead to more criminal activity, a sentiment expressed by 91.2% of opponents. A similar number, 89%, raised concerns about traffic, while nearly 80% worry about reduced property values.

The Tribune and other Chicago media outlets reported Tuesday that city officials were close to a decision and leaning heavily toward Bally’s. Lightfoot, in a press conference later that day, pushed back on the reports, saying the evaluation committee, which consists of representatives from a multitude of city agencies, had yet to hand her a recommendation.

“I understand, obviously, that there’s a great deal of interest.” she said. “This is an incredible opportunity for us to shore up our police and fire pensions. It’s something that people should take seriously.”

City Council Committee to Meet Monday

Earlier Wednesday, the Chicago City Council’s special committee on the casino project announced “a subject matter hearing” would take place Monday morning to talk about the three projects still in the running for the license.

Besides Bally’s, Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming also have proposals city leaders were considering.

According to the city’s plan, once a finalist is selected, city officials and leaders from the selected project will hammer out a host community agreement (HCA). That City Council’s special committee will then review the deal.

Once the full council approves the deal, the project will then go before the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB). The IGB will review and determine if it should award a license.

Report Details Bally’s Casino Economic Impact

Bally’s plans to build its casino at the site where the Tribune publishing plant currently stands. The gaming floor would feature 3,400 slot machines and 173 table games. Other amenities and attractions include a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, a Chicago sports museum, an outdoor music center, and numerous eating establishments on the grounds.

The company would spend $1.5 billion on the first phase of the project, which would include the casino floor, 100 hotel rooms, and several other amenities. The first phase would create 9,750 construction jobs, with the casino and amenities expected to create more than 2,000 jobs, with more than 1,850 of those being full-time equivalent.

Bally’s anticipates the permanent venue opening in early 2026. In the meantime, it would operate a $70 million temporary casino at a site adjacent to the Tribune plant to start generating some revenue for the city. That could open as soon as next year, according to the company’s proposal.

Union Gaming, a financial firm serving as a consultant to the city, estimated the Bally’s casino would produce $816 million in adjusted gaming revenue by 2029. The firm expects nearly 80 percent of the revenue to be generated by local gamblers.

“Union Gaming believes the proposed project at the Tribune site will generate the most local-oriented gaming revenue in Chicago, augmented by significant tourist/non-local gaming revenue,” the city’s evaluation report, released in March, stated. “Much of the tourist/non-local gaming revenue is driven by hotel rooms offered to higher-tier customers.”

If Bally’s only has a 100-room hotel operating by year six, the city can expect up to $177 million in tax revenue by year six of operations, according to Union Gaming. A full hotel would produce $192 million in taxes by year six.

The gaming company also offered to pay $25 million upfront once an HCA was reached.

Chicago Would Be Bally’s ‘Flagship’ Casino

While the Bally’s proposal is expected to generate the most revenue, that’s not the only strong selling point for its plan.

The city’s evaluation report made frequent mention of Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming already owning at least a share of a large casino in the Chicagoland area. Rush Street is a minority owner and operator of Rivers Des Plaines near O’Hare International Airport. Hard Rock is the majority owner and operator of Hard Rock Northern Indiana, a $300 million casino that opened in Gary a year ago.

In its proposal to the city and presentations before residents, Bally’s officials have said their Chicago casino would be the “flagship” property for one of the fastest growing gaming companies in the US.

“Bally’s is the only bidder that does not already have a property in the Chicagoland market and, therefore, is more likely to operate with independence in maximizing revenues for the Chicago casino,” the report stated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like