The City Council of Chicago voted 41-7 to approve Bally’s $1.7 billion casino resort on the waterfront in the River West neighborhood of America’s third-largest city.
The only hurdle left to clear is to see the Illinois Gaming Board sign off on the deal, that in some ways, was three decades in the making. While there may have been three decades of futility in trying to get a casino to the Windy City, the time from the gambling bill to a request for proposals was just 2 years and from there to approval by the Council was just one year.
After the gambling expansion bill passed in 2019, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked several major gambling providers if they’d like to come to town. None of them said yes. After asking Legislators to take a second look at the baked-in tax rate of 72%, Mayor Litefoot got her wish, with the rate cut nearly in half to 40% on the amended bill.
Smooth Sailing Expected
Everything about the process has been fast-tracked to some degree but the license approval is not likely to need to be expedited.
The Illinois Gambling Board has already vetted Bally’s as part of the process of the company’s purchase of Jumer’s Casino Rock Island, which has since been rebranded to Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel.
All other licenses authorized in the sweeping 2019 legislation have taken at least a year to be authorized. However, Bally’s doesn’t even expect to open a temporary casino until Spring 2023 at the earliest and the full-scale resort isn’t expected to open any earlier than 2025.
Some stakeholders haven’t liked the speed and efficiency that Mayor Litefoot has shown in moving the project forward and the Council vote didn’t come to a close before a heated discussion including raised voices and accusations took place. In all there was about 90 minutes of debate.
Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) accused Mayor Lightfoot of being “more worried about campaign contributions than doing the right thing for the city of Chicago.”
Verbal Brawl During 90 Minute Debate
The Mayor shot back, “You are a liar. You are a liar, sir. And you are out of order,” according to local reporting. After defending the reputations of those who worked alongside her on the project, Litefoot stated: “You are out of order. You can express your comments and your views. But you will not tear down the integrity of people who are working just as hard as you are. That is absolutely unacceptable.”
Other opponents complained about Bally’s numbers being “pie in the sky” and resulting from “fuzzy math”. The city is expecting to see almost $200 million a year in annual tax revenue which is destined to bolster police and firefighter pension funds. Bally’s will also pay the city $40 million upfront and guarantee $4 million a year in “host city” payments.
The Rhode Island-based Bally’s is not required to start taking bets at the historic Medinah Temple temporary casino until one-year after the license is approved but it must complete the entire resort as agreed to within 3 years.
If Bally’s fails to meet those timelines they would still have to pay the city for any lost revenues that might result from a delay.