Bally’s casino heads to Gaming Board, faces delay

State regulators have up to a year to decide

Lori Lightfoot with Bally's
Lori Lightfoot with Bally's (Getty, Bally's)

Bally’s $1.7 billion Chicago casino-resort is in the hands of state gambling regulators, making plans to open in a temporary location next year a long shot.

The firm filed an application with the Illinois Gaming Board, which has a year to review it and has taken twice as long in the past, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Bally’s wants to open a temporary casino at the landmark Medinah Temple by next summer

The board’s approval is a key step toward building the entertainment complex, which also needs a green light from the Plan Commision. Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed off on it, and the City Council voted 41 to 7 in May to approve an ordinance and community agreement for what would be Chicago’s first casino.

The council’s vote came after a contentious debate about whether the project was moving too fast. One alderman recused himself and another wasn’t in attendance.

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Gaming regulators have been relatively slow with decisions, something the administrator, Marcus Fruchter, blames on pandemic delays and competitive bidding processes. It took more than two years from the time backers of Hard Rock Casino Rockford applied for approval for them to launch a temporary site.

The Bally’s casino complex, which is slated to open some time in 2026, is expected to generate about $200 million annually that will go into underfunded police and firefighter pension funds.

Bally’s made an upfront payment to the city of $40 million, which may have contributed to the gambling firm winning the bid over two other finalists. Bally’s must also pay $250,000 as an application fee.

Victoria Pruitt