Chicago City Council Approves Bally’s Casino’s Zoning Change Proposal


Bally’s casino is planning to kick off its $1.7 billion project soon. It got approval from the Chicago City Council to proceed with the zoning change. But, the Illinois Gaming Board has to issue the gaming operator a license before it starts its project.

The City Council voted 39-5 on Wednesday to accept the necessary zoning changes that Bally’s requires to construct its entertainment complex and casino at the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center near Chicago Avenue and Halstead and along the Chicago River.

Bally’s intends to construct a $1.7 billion River West casino. The Gaming Board will determine whether Chicago will end its three-decade quest for an entertainment complex and a casino. Many players expected the board to accept since the city council voted 41-7 in May for Bally’s casino bid.

More About the Approved Zoning Change

The new zoning permits the development of a casino having a 500-room hotel, events center and 3,000-seat theater, a Riverwalk, and 4,000 gaming positions. The project will have other phases in the future including retail spaces, a public park,250 hotel rooms, 4,800 condo units, and apartments. Also, it will create 3,000 permanent jobs and 3,000 construction jobs.

The Chicago City Council Zoning Committee approved the proposed zoning change on Tuesday through a 10-4 vote. The Chicago Plan Commission signed off the project the previous day.

A Plan Commission meeting was held on Monday. Bally’s executives reassured other people that they will hire 60 percent of its workers from minority groups, and give 46 percent of all contracts to women and minority-owned companies. Christopher Jewett, Bally’s Corporate Development vice president, said he believes that the company will keep its pledges.

The Casino Will Generate $200 Million in Annual Tax Revenue

The gaming operator wants to build a temporary casino in the Medinah Temple building located in River North in Q2 2023. Still, it will launch its permanent casino in the first quarter of 2026.

Even so, some people who criticize the casino claim that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration rushed Bally’s casino’s proposal through the Chicago City Council before addressing issues like how the congested River West region will handle increased traffic and the casino’s impact on rising crime rates.

The city’s officials showed that the new casino will generate $200 million in annual tax revenues for Chicago, which will help its underfunded fire pension systems and police. Mayor Lightfoot earlier stated that Chicago would raise real property taxes to get pension funds if the city lacked a commercial casino.

The Three Casino Applicants

Three gaming operators competed for the city’s first gaming license including Bally’s. The city chose it over two other bids for South Loop sites from Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming, which Neil Bluhm spearheaded.

Bally’s proposal was Chicago’s most lucrative plan. The report indicates that its site was the only one lacking a nearby casino in the proposed site.

Bally’s signed a contract with the Chicago Federation of Labor and pledged to hand over more than half of its permanent and construction jobs to Asian, African, Latino, and American workers.

The proposed casino will be in the Chicago Tribune newsroom and printing plant. It will have 173 table games and 3,400 slot machines.

The site will have six cafes and restaurants, a food hall, three bars, and lounges. Also, it will have a 20,000-square-foot event space, a 70,000-square-foot concert venue, and a 500-room hotel tower.

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