Thursday, June 13, 2024

Everything about this deal has been cursed since the beginning

Move ahead on Ald. Hopkins call for hearings on troubled Bally’s casino deal
The Bally’s River West casino effort has been troubled from the start. Public hearings on the matter could be just the thing to find out what’s happening — and how to move forward.
By CST Editorial Board
Jun 12, 2024, 8:24pm CDT

The Bally’s Corp.'s ability to build that big $1.7 billion casino in the River West community seems less and less like a sure thing with each passing month.

From the company’s seemingly shaky ability to close an $800 million construction funding gap, to the organization having to find a new location for a planned hotel tower — well after the complex’s master plan had been approved by the City Council — the project has rolled snake eyes just a bit too often.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), introduced a resolution at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, calling for hearings on Bally’s financial ability to build the casino.

The measure was sent to the council’s Finance Committee. We hope council members get those hearings scheduled — and soon.


There have always been questions about the project from the start, including the way then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot seemingly put her thumb on the scale in Bally’s favor when she selected them two years ago as the casino’s builder and operator.

But since then, Bally’s has struggled to justify their selection.

In addition to the construction and financing problems, Hopkins’ resolution indicates the company’s temporary casino at 600 N. Wabash Ave. in the Medinah Temple building generated $3.1 million in tax revenue, a far cry from Bally’s promise that the set-up would yield $12.8 million for the city.

And “in 2024, Bally’s temporary casino has not met tax revenue expectations per the 2024 city budget assumptions,” Hopkins’ resolution states.

That’s alarming, given the casino’s purpose is to generate tax revenue to help solve the city’s pension crisis.

Even Mayor Brandon Johnson questions the project’s viability under Bally’s, as evident by comments he made in a meeting with this newspaper’s editorial board earlier this week.

“I wish I could say something definitive today,” Johnson said Monday when asked if the casino would be constructed to the grand scale that has been planned — or even built at all.

Bally’s is set to take ownership of the permanent casino site — the Chicago Tribune’s former Freedom Center printing plant at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street —on July 5.

The gaming, entertainment and hotel complex will be constructed and open by September 2026, according to Bally’s.

But no gambler would dare play with a hand as bad as the one Bally’s seems to have dealt Chicago and itself. How did things wind up so poorly? And does Bally’s have the ability and the cash to fix it?

The public needs to know. And public hearings on the matter could be just the thing to get Chicago there.

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