Bally’s upcoming Chicago casino resort is a major project, but the company has taken two significant steps forward. It has begun hiring for roughly 700 positions at its temporary location, which it expects to open in July. Meanwhile, Bally’s has reached a deal with the Chicago Tribune to vacate the printing facility currently occupying the future site of the permanent $1.7 billion resort.
When completed, Bally’s Chicago will stand where the Freedom Center printing plant does today, just north of downtown. The company aims to open the casino in 2026. It’s operating a temporary casino nearby in the interim. These steps bring the company closer to realizing the project, which proponents expect to be an economic boon for the city. The new jobs are one early manifestation of those benefits.
700 Casino Employee Positions Open for Bally’s Temporary Location
Bally’s temporary casino plans have met with ire from residents. The hiring blitz may do a little to soothe things.
The company’s website shows over 700 available positions. Many of these are traditional casino roles like:
- Food service
To accept a position, applicants must be willing to acquire an Illinois occupational gaming license. These cost $50, paid to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB)
Finding enough qualified dealers has been difficult for many casinos since the pandemic. To help with that, Bally’s has established a dealer training program in partnership with City Colleges of Chicago.
The temporary casino in the historic Medinah Temple building aims for a July 2023 opening. It will feature 800 slots, 50 table games, and 24/7 hours of operation.
The opening is contingent on Bally’s receiving its operator license from the IGB. It has a meeting scheduled for June 15, but any licensing hiccup would delay the opening. The IGB meets again on July 27 but only has three more meetings planned between then and the end of the year.
Even if all goes well with licensing, Bally’s is not guaranteed to fill all the positions by opening day. Rush Street Gaming CEO Tim Drehkoff told an audience at the East Coast Gaming Summit that casinos are making do with 400,000 fewer workers than before the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal has similarly reported that the broader hospitality and leisure industry is coping with two million unfulfilled jobs.
Bally’s & Chicago Tribune Strike a Deal
While working on its temporary casino opening, the Bally’s cleared one hurdle in the path of its permanent project.
Bally’s bought the Freedom Center last year, but the newspaper didn’t want to vacate its printing plant immediately. In February, Bally’s gave the Tribune two years to do so. However, the newspaper had recently committed to a 10-year lease extension set to begin this summer. Bally’s and the Tribune’s owners entered arbitration to find a mutually agreeable solution. The gaming company has even offered to contribute financially to the Tribune’s relocation.
Last week, both parties announced they had reached an agreement. Under the deal, Bally’s will provide a series of undisclosed cash payments to buy out the remaining tenure of the Tribune’s lease for the printing facility. The newspaper, for its part, has committed to vacating the Freedom Center by July 2024.
Alden Global Capital, the New York-based investment firm which owns the Tribune, initially seemed reluctant to leave the site. While Bally’s representatives declined to comment on the matter, a spokesperson for Alden expressed sadness at leaving the Freedom Center. However, they also acknowledged the significance of the casino project to the city’s economic development.
The Opening Of Bally’s Chicago Is Integral To The City As Well
When complete, the permanent downtown resort will feature the following:
- 3,400 real money slots
- 170 table games
- A 500-room hotel
- A 3,000-seat entertainment venue
Bally’s winning bid for the casino license included an upfront payment of $40 million to the city of Chicago.
An on-time opening for the casino is essential to the city. The resort is forecasted to contribute $200 million in annual tax revenue. Regarding jobs, Bally’s expects to employ 3,000 workers in construction and another 3,000 full-time employees at the finished casino. Its diversity targets require that 60% of these jobs go to women and minorities.
The tax revenue will be critical as Chicago faces a $48 billion deficit in pension plans. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Casino Recommendation Report claims that Illinois loses about $331 million in annual gaming revenue because residents go to gamble in nearby Indiana. The report estimates that Bally’s Chicago will recapture about $190 million of this. Furthermore, it forecasts that the casino will generate “nearly $1.3 billion of annual direct, indirect, and induced revenues for the casino and supported businesses in Chicago.”