Mayor Johnson wary of Bally’s casino development feasibility 

Cited company’s $800M funding gap and looming takeover bid

Chicago Mayor Skeptical of Bally’s Casino Development
Mayor Brandon Johnson and Bally’s Soo Kim (Getty, Bally's)

After a record-setting month at its temporary casino at Medinah Temple, Bally’s is poised to start construction next month on its permanent casino complex in River West. 

However, Mayor Brandon Johnson is skeptical of Bally’s ability to execute the $1.7 billion project, the Chicago Sun-Times reported

Johnson cited concerns about Bally’s $800 million funding gap and an ongoing buyout bid by the company’s largest shareholder, which cast doubt on the project’s feasibility, in a meeting with the outlet’s editorial board.

Johnson was asked whether he believes the permanent casino will be built and if it will include all the proposed features.

“I wish I could say something definitive today,” Johnson said, noting that his administration is working with Bally’s ownership to find a solution. “I think that one’s still to be determined, to be perfectly frank with you.”

Investor concerns add another layer of complexity. Two months ago, investors from K&F Growth Capital warned that a takeover bid by Bally’s chairman Soo Kim could jeopardize the Chicago project. They argued that if the debt-laden company goes private, it could fail to complete the casino, risking job creation and tax revenue for Illinois.

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Since March, credit ratings firms Moody’s and Fitch have downgraded Bally’s, with S&P Global citing “development and execution risks” associated with the casino project. Bally’s CFO Marcus Glover acknowledged the need to close an $800 million funding gap but expressed confidence in their prospects.

Bally’s is contractually obligated to spend at least $1.34 billion on the project under the host city agreement signed during former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s tenure. Despite this commitment, the company faces logistical hurdles, including the need to reshape its plan to avoid damaging city water pipes with a massive proposed hotel tower.

The company hopes to start construction on July 5 and open the casino complex in fall 2026.

The temporary casino recorded $11.7 million in adjusted gross receipts in May, the outlet previously reported.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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