Bally’s Files State Application for Chicago’s First Casino | Company

Bally’s filed its application with the Illinois Gaming Board on Wednesday, taking a major step in the process of building Chicago’s first casino and its growing company’s flagship property.

The application was posted on the gambling council’s website on Thursday morning.

The clock is ticking now for the Rhode Island-based publicly traded company to gain state license approval, finalize its proposal with the city’s planning department, and open its casino on an ambitious schedule.

If all goes well, Chicago players could be splitting aces and pulling slot machine levers in temporary quarters by next summer, but several hurdles remain.

Bally’s proposal to build a $1.74 billion casino resort in River West is expected to generate $200 million in annual tax revenue for the city, transform a 30-acre industrial site into a bustling entertainment destination and send the Chicago Tribune wraps up its Freedom Center print plant along the Chicago River.

While the permanent casino is not expected to open until 2026, Bally plans to launch a temporary casino at Medina Temple by June 2023. This may require an expedited process at the game board level.

The state allows casinos to operate in a temporary facility for up to two years, with the option to request an additional 12-month extension, before opening a permanent location. It took 16 months for the newest licensee – Hard Rock Casino Rockford – to get preliminary board approval and two years to open a temporary casino.

Logistical issues aside, the use of the 110-year-old Medinah Temple, which was designated a Chicago landmark in 2001, as a temporary casino, has been pushed back somewhat.

Preservation Futures, a Chicago-based historic preservation company, sent a letter to the Chicago Landmarks Commission asking it to reject the adaptive reuse of the Medinah Temple as ‘inappropriate’ and not ‘in harmony’ with the public interest. of preservation.

On August 5, the commission issued a conditional approval for the plan, saying it “would have no adverse effect” on the historic property.

In a presentation to the commission’s permit review panel, Joyen Vakil, senior vice president of design and development at Bally’s, said company officials “love, respect, cherish and want absolutely make sure that we keep the sanctity of the historic nature (of Medina).”

According to the presentation, Bally’s plans include replacing Bloomingdale’s old signs with their own exterior, adding multiple cameras to the entrances and inside the building, and placing new mechanical equipment on the roof. The walls of the old Bloomingdale’s inside will be taken down to make way for the play floors. The unobstructed view of the temple dome will remain. Bally’s is responsible for restoring the temple to its original state once it has moved to its permanent location.

For security reasons, the state gaming commission and the Chicago Police Department must approve certain lighting and camera plans, city official Matt Crawford said at the meeting. Once this is complete, Bally’s may return to historical staff for final clearance.

City officials say Bally’s still needs to receive liquor and zoning approvals before the temporary casino can open.

Bally’s must also navigate the Chicago Plan Commission and continued neighborhood opposition for final approval of its permanent casino. The River North Residents Association, which represents around 23,000 people living near Bally’s proposed site, is seeking significant changes to the plan.

The casino company has yet to exercise an option to buy the printing site from Dallas-based Nexstar Media Group, the nation’s largest TV network owner, which acquired it in 2019 in part of its $4.1 billion purchase of Tribune Media – the former broadcast parent. from the Tribune edition.

Tribune Publishing is negotiating with Nexstar to extend the lease of its print shop by 10 years, which is due to expire in June 2023. Meanwhile, Tribune’s parent company, hedge fund Alden Global Capital, has a deal to buy the print shop recently inactive from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in West Milwaukee.

When Bally’s purchases the site, it will become the owner of Tribune Publishing and have the right to relocate printing operations. Bally Chairman Soo Kim previously told the Tribune that he wouldn’t rule out keeping the plant at the current site.

Kim is the founding partner of New York-based hedge fund Standard General, the largest shareholder in the casino company

Once a Chicago-based casino operator, the Bally name was purchased in 2020 by Twin River Holdings, the hedge fund-controlled company that has brought together a chain of 14 casinos in 10 states over the past decade, including Bally’s Quad Cities at Rock Island.

In March, Mayor Lori Lightfoot narrowed down five proposals to three finalists: Bally’s at the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center, Rivers at 78 in the South Loop and Hard Rock at the One Central development project on the Near South Side. Bally beat the other finalists to gain City Council approval in May.

The Chicago casino will be Bally’s largest and most expensive property, prompting some analysts to question whether the company has the financial wherewithal to make it happen. In June, Fitch Ratings revised Bally’s outlook to negative from stable, citing the “execution risk” of the Chicago development.

Meanwhile, Cowen released a more optimistic outlook for Bally’s last month, saying the company “outwitted industry heavyweights and local heroes” to win Chicago’s first casino license on “attractive terms.” “.

To help fund Chicago’s development, Bally’s last month entered into a sale-leaseback agreement with Gaming and Leisure Properties for its Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel in Rhode Island and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, which will yield to the company $635. million.

“The sale-leaseback provides certainty of funds for the purchase of the land and construction of the temporary project, as well as ongoing development expenditures for the project,” Kim said Wednesday. “It’s a big step towards financing the property.”

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