The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has granted Bally’s a full operational license for its casino resort in Chicago, valid until October 2027. In the process, the IGB also approved a 12-month extension for the operator’s temporary casino in downtown Chicago, necessary due to construction delays for the $1.9 billion permanent location. The temporary casino at Medinah Temple opened on Sep.9 and can now operate until Sep. 9, 2026, giving Bally’s the time it needs.
By default, under Illinois law, temporary casino locations can only operate for up to two years while construction of the permanent locations takes place. However, a licensee can ask for a 12-month extension due to delays if it shows “good cause” towards completing the project. Such extensions aren’t uncommon. This year alone, Hard Rock in Rockford and American Place in Waukegan also received the extra year.
During the Oct. 26 IGB meeting, Mark Wong, Vice President and General Manager of Bally’s Chicago, presented an update on the Medinah Temple casino operations and expectations for constructing Bally’s Chicago. The final location will be huge, with room for 3,400 slots and 170 table games.
Casino Construction Can’t Start Until Site Is Vacated
During his presentation, Wong expressed confidence that the project would be completed within the new timeline. He said the construction would take between two and two-and-a-half years. However, the latter would mean a 2027 opening because Bally’s has taken longer than it anticipated to start construction.
Bally’s Chicago will be located at the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant, just north of downtown Chicago. In February, the casino operator moved to eject the tenant, which had just started a 10-year lease. However, this summer, through arbitration, the two parties agreed for the newspaper to vacate the site by July 2024. In return, Bally’s will make a series of payments to buy out the remainder of the lease, though the companies haven’t disclosed the total amount.
That means construction won’t start until next summer at the earliest. Wong’s two-year timeframe would indicate a July or August 2026 completion. If it achieves that, Bally’s Chicago should open just in time. But any further delays could mean the authorization for Bally’s temporary location expires before the final casino opens, even with the extension.
A delayed opening would be costly in terms of lost revenue, and leave several hundred Bally’s workers temporarily out of work. Of course, it would also mean millions lost in tax revenue for the city and state, which both desperately need, so all parties have an interest in seeing the project advance in a timely manner.