A proposed $1.7 billion casino in Chicago has earned city council approval, but still needs a license from the Illinois Gaming Board.
The council voted 39-5 Dec. 14 in favor of the zoning changes that Bally’s Corp. needs to build the casino, hotel and entertainment complex in an industrial area, the site of the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center printing plant.
"This is a significant achievement and another critical step forward in the process of developing Bally's Chicago," said Bally's chairman Soo Kim in a news release.
The project's general contractor is the Chicago Community Builders Collective, a management team of minority-led firms that includes Brown & Momen Inc., d’Escoto Inc., LiveWire Construction Inc., Milhouse Engineering & Construction, Powers & Sons Construction, UJAMAA Construction Inc., Riteway-Huggins Construction Services Inc. and SQN Associates LLC, along with Gilbane Building Co.
Joe Miller, director of policy for the Illinois Gaming Board, said Bally’s submitted its pending casino application on Aug. 22. He did not predict when the board may decide the matter.
“The board does not speculate on timelines for future board actions,” he said in an email.
Bally's is seeking to operate a temporary casino at the Medinah Temple at 600 N. Wabash Ave. for up to three years while the permanent casino-resort is constructed. The project, which would require retrofitting the historic building, has drawn concerns from neighbors about traffic, congestion and crime and safety.
The state allows casinos to operate a temporary facility for up to two years, with the ability to apply for an additional 12-month extension, before opening a permanent location. It took the most recent licensee, The Hard Rock Casino Rockford, 16 months for preliminary approval of its casino.
Bally's wants to open the temporary casino in June 2023.
Its permanent facility, located along the Chicago River, is envisioned to be a casino, entertainment and hotel destination—with 3,400 slots, 170 table games, 10 food and beverage venues and a 500-room hotel tower with rooftop bar. It also features a 65,000-sq-ft entertainment center with 3,000 seats, a 20,000-sq-ft exhibition space, outdoor music venue and green space.
Bally’s closed in November on a $200-million deal to purchase the former Chicago Tribune printing plant. Under terms of the deal, a Chicago-based real estate private equity firm will purchase the Tribune Publishing Center site at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street in the River West neighborhood. Then, to raise funds for the project, the casino developer will lease back the land in a ground lease with the investor whose name was not released.
The ground lease includes an initial 99-year term, followed by 10 separate 20-year renewals at option for Bally's. The investor will provide an additional $300 million through the ground lease for the casino’s development as specified construction milestones are met and at Bally’s request.
A ground lease is an agreement in which a tenant is permitted to develop a piece of property during the lease period, after which the land and all improvements are turned over to the property owner.
Brown & Momen Inc. and Gilbane Building Co. declined to comment.