Gaming expert lacks faith in Bally’s $1.7B casino development 

Cited unrealistic construction timeline and $800M construction funding gap

Gaming Expert Casts Doubt on Bally’s Chicago Casino
Alan Woinski of Gaming USA and a rendering of Bally’s Chicago casino complex (Bally's LinkedIn)

Bally’s has yet another doubter to prove wrong as it prepares to embark on a $1.7 billion casino development in River West. 

Alan Woinski, CEO of Gaming USA and editor of the Gaming Industry Daily Report, has zero faith that Bally’s will complete the casino complex by the state-mandated September 2026 deadline, Crain’s reported

Woinski also questions Bally’s financial capacity to pull off the project, especially with a looming $800 million construction funding gap. A potential buyout bid by the company’s chairman and largest shareholder, Soo Kim, also casts an air of uncertainty over the development. 

Woinski likened Bally’s challenges to previous struggles faced by casino projects in Detroit and New Orleans, which had difficulty reaching completion. 

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has also expressed skepticism about the project’s feasibility, suggesting a need to renegotiate the deal. Woinski interprets Johnson’s stance as an acknowledgment that the current project timelines and features are unrealistic.

“He’s saying there’s not going to be any choice,” Woinski told the outlet. “Let’s say Bally’s does find the money, and it’s … at a very, very high interest rate for the financing. It just makes it that much harder for that property to achieve profitability. It doesn’t help anyone.”

Alderman Brian Hopkins, of the 2nd Ward, even called for hearings to assess Bally’s financial wherewithal at a recent city council meeting. 

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Despite concerns, the company remains committed to the project and on track for a September 2026 opening, said Mark Wong, Bally’s Chicago general manager. Bally’s plans to begin sitework on July 5, including initial demolition of the Freedom Center, although details about the overall demolition timeline and financing are still pending.

Woinski cautions against starting construction without securing the full financing, warning that partial builds and subsequent halts are detrimental to all parties involved.

Compounding the financial difficulties are the broader challenges within the gambling industry. The proliferation of video gaming terminals in bars and restaurants, along with the surge in sports betting and online gambling, has saturated the market.

Bally’s financial troubles are further highlighted by recent downgrades from credit rating firms, including Moody’s and Fitch. Those downgrades underscore the “development and execution risks” associated with the Chicago project. 

In addition, a letter from investors opposing Kim’s takeover warns that the bid could jeopardize the completion of the Chicago project, risking employment and tax revenue.

Bally’s is obligated to invest at least $1.34 billion, per its agreement with the city. However, unresolved issues, such as managing to place a massive hotel tower without damaging city water pipes, add to the growing list of complications for the embattled project.

—Quinn Donoghue

Read more

Chicago Mayor Skeptical of Bally’s Casino Development
Mayor Johnson wary of Bally’s casino development feasibility 
Bally’s Seeks $800M to Start Chicago Casino Complex
Bally’s seeks $800M to start Chicago casino as deadline looms
Soo Kim Takeover bid Threatens Bally’s Chicago Casino Project
Takeover bid threatens Bally’s casino project in Chicago 
Recommended For You