Chicago could finally get its temporary casino in a few days. However, even in the eleventh hour before the venue’s opening, the planned facility is still getting mixed reviews.
Despite all the critics, the casino needs only the state’s approval to start operation.
There are still some issues that have to be taken care of before the planned casino can open its doors to the public at its temporary location in the Medinah Temple. This week, representatives of state regulatory bodies are set to visit the site as part of some tests aimed at checking whether the casino should get the nod from the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB). Then, the temporary Bally’s Casino location could finally be awarded an operating license.
A number of businesses, such as Pizzeria Uno and several other restaurants that have been operating in the area for many years are ready to gladly welcome a new neighbor, after realizing that the operation of Bally’s temporary casino would be great for their businesses because it would bring new visitors and potential customers.
Illinois Gaming Board to Run Some Tests on Medinah Temple Casino on September 6th and 7th
As mentioned above, Bally’s is ready to start welcoming visitors right away but its temporary location’s doors remain closed to the public. The state’s gambling regulatory body plans to run some tests on the casino operations on September 6th and 7th. If approved, the venue could open in a matter of days. Bally’s, however, is not set to announce an official grand opening of the Medinah Temple temporary location until the Illinois Gaming Board provides the location with official approval.
According to preliminary projections, the temporary location of the Bally’s casino could generate revenue of approximately $55 million for the city every year.
Apart from that, Bally’s has unveiled plans to hire more than 500 people for its temporary location in the Medinah Temple. The gambling operator pledged that it was ready to handle all potential safety and traffic concerns that may occur in relation to the project.
The temporary casino will feature 50 table games and 750 slots while the permanent location of the operator is being built in River West. Bally’s permanent casino location is expected to start operation in 2026.
Of course, not everyone has accepted the project with open arms. The president of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) which has strongly opposed the project, Deborah Gershbein, believes that Chicago does not have to consider gambling as a resource that would help it raise funds for the city. She said that the casino establishment could raise some potential safety issues and traffic issues which the group has already been concerned about.
Bally’s Postponed Initial Opening Date for Temporary Casino While Waiting for Final Regulatory Approval
The opening date for Chicago’s first casino has actually been delayed. As CasinoGamesPro reported, Bally’s executives originally aimed for an opening of the company’s Medinah Temple temporary location in the middle of August. This, however, did not happen as the corporation is still awaiting final approval from the state’s gambling regulatory body.
Bally’s received an early thumbs-up from the Illinois Gaming Board in June, which was basically the first step on the way to finally launching the temporary casino in Medinah temple for a period of up to three years while the permanent home for the $1.7-billion venue is being built at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.
At the time when the state’s gambling watchdog gave its preliminary approval to the temporary venue, it had found the venue suitable to serve as an interim casino. This allowed Bally’s to start taking care of the equipment but the gambling operator still has to clear a final set of obstacles, including the aforementioned gaming test run, before the board’s administrator Marcus Fruchter eventually issued the temporary operating permit for the place.
Soo Kim, Bally’s chairman, was forced to push the initial casino opening timeline back a bit, saying that the venue should be up and running at the end of August. The regulators, however, still need to go and do their job in order to make sure that everything works the way it is supposed to before the Medinah Temple temporary casino finally opens its doors to the public.
During an earnings call for the latest quarter that took place at the beginning of August, Bally’s CEO Robeson Reeves notified the company’s investors that the temporary casino project remained on schedule for an opening in September 2023.
Casino Project’s Evaluation Process Raised Some Questions
Any opening date of the first Chicago casino will be well beyond the target date that was initially set by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was willing to see the city start utilizing casino tax revenue to bring some money to the financially challenged police and firefighter pension funds by June 2023.
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, there have been certain questions about Ms. Lightfoot’s casino deal, especially in terms of the financial services consultancy firm hired by the then-Mayor to evaluate the bids for the proposed Chicago casino and the gambling operator that eventually won the license.
Previously, some media hubs reported that while it was trying to convince Ms. Lightfoot’s administration to choose its offer for the Chicago casino, Bally’s was also engaged in the final stages of a $2.6-billion worth of acquisition deal to take over the British online gambling company Gamesys. One of the provisions that had to be covered by Bally’s to close that deal was to pay off Gamesys’ lenders, among which was Nomura Securities – the Tokyo-based financial service agency that had to assess the Chicago casino project of the company.
Even though Nomura Securities did not hold a substantive role in the evaluation phase of the project, some questions associated with the assessment process remained looming. According to some reports, the selection process was not clear enough all along, although some performative public hearings took place along the way. As mentioned above, the process is not fully over, as the Illinois Gaming Board has so far granted the project only with preliminary permission and in order to start operation, the temporary casino needs to receive an official thumbs-up from the regulator.