Chicago Casino

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Chicago Casino Timeline

(latest to earliest)

April 2024: City Promotes Temporary and Permanent Casino Employment

On Thursday April 18, a new page was added to the the City of Chicago’s Casino website, describing permanent job opportunities at the main River West facility, as well as construction jobs during the development phases, and employment-related public outreach sessions. Though RNRA opposed the original decision to develop a large casino/entertainment complex on the former Tribune publishing site, and continues to advocate for improvements that would reduce harmful impacts on the surrounding communities, the organization fully supports the goal of expanding job opportunities for Chicagoans. The new resources may be accessed here

February 2024: City Approves Revised Site Plan

On Thursday February 8, City Zoning Administrator Patrick Murphey approved Bally’s tweaked first phase of construction, slated to begin this summer on the 30-acre site at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, which will now see a 100-room hotel placed above the casino. The Sun Times story can be viewed here

January 2024: CCAC Meeting – Proposed Redesign for the Casino and Hotel Tower

On Thursday, January 25, an RNRA representative attended the Casino Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) meeting.    At this meeting, the City and Bally’s confirmed the need to redesign the casino and hotel tower after discovering that caissons from the proposed tower would potentially damage municipal water management infrastructure pipes near the Chicago River, located on the property where the 500-room hotel was planned.  While the revisions represent a change in design, the overall 500-room commitment will be kept,  and it was communicated Bally’s will not need to undergo a full review process for the changes before the City Council as the changes align with the contract. Per Bally’s the changes will not delay the schedule.  The plan to open in 2026 remains the same. It was stated the changes also will not disrupt the previously approved entry and exit points.   Jefferson Street remains the primary pedestrian and traffic gateway and those changes still align with River Guidelines and North Branch Guidelines.

Back in October 2023, Bally’s filed a foundation permit for a ten-story events center, five-story casino building, and 35-story, 500-key hotel tower. In January 2024, a new foundation permit filing lists a four-story casino building with a 100-key hotel and events center with a 400-room hotel located toward the southern end of the site, shorter than originally planned. The southern end of the events center is also proposed to be lower than originally planned, but capacity remains the same.  On the north end where the tower was originally planned, the space is now proposed to be open green space available for public use. Bally’s draft plans of the redesign can be viewed here.

Finalized plans for the first-phase, 100-room hotel with a rooftop lounge on the casino, is expected to be complete in a few weeks.  The location of the new 400 room tower will need months to resolve.

RNRA is in the process of reviewing the information first provided formally at the CAC meeting on January 25.  We understand that infrastructure-related site plan adjustments are not uncommon in projects of such scale and complexity, and that it’s possible this change might result in modest reductions in density at the north end of the site, which would be welcome.

The magnitude of the proposed changes certainly merits extensive review and has implications across all of the areas on which RNRA has previously provided recommendations, articulated in detail on this page.  Our primary concerns continue to be public safety, strain on infrastructure, and impacts on quality of life in the surrounding community.  

RNRA continues to advocate for impactful project improvements through the CCAC, as well as direct dialogue with city officials and the developers. The extent of the revisions, and the areas that remain in flux as a result, warrant at a minimum an open and fully transparent review with opportunity for community input.

Regarding the temporary facility, RNRA has general concerns about the potential impact of measures the operators might take in an effort to increase traffic and revenue and will continue to meet with Bally’s to address these concerns.

December 2023: 24/7 Operations Commence at Temporary Facility. 

On December 6, The Illinois Gaming Board signed off on the casino’s request for expanded hours. Bally’s Chicago has been limited to a 20-hour daily schedule since opening its temporary casino Sept. 9. The Tribune story can be viewed here.

October 2023: RNRA Advocacy for High-Priority Issues and Temporary Facility Extension

On October 26, the Illinois Gaming Board granted Bally’s Chicago a four-year-ownership license and a 12-month extension to operate its temporary casino at Medinah Temple. The approvals give Bally’s Chicago until September 2026 to build out its permanent facility at the site of the Chicago Tribune’s printing plant. The Chicago Tribune story can be viewed here.

On October 11, RNRA met with Bally officials to continue conversations regarding recommendations for several measures to improve public safety and reduce public disruption in the neighborhoods surrounding the temporary and permanent facilities. RNRA appreciates the willingness of Bally’s representatives and administration officials to engage in meaningful dialogue about the impact of these casinos on the host communities. Follow-up meetings will be scheduled. A recap of the Oct 11 meeting can be found here.

September 2023: Temporary Facility Opens 

All of the local print, broadcast, and online media outlets covered the opening of the temporary facility, and most mentioned the ongoing concerns of elected officials and community organizations. An example of the coverage from NBC Chicago can be viewed here.

At 8:00 a.m. on Saturday September 9, Bally’s Casino Chicago opened for business in its temporary location in the Medinah Temple building. The initial operating hours approved by the IGB are daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The casino will operate in this facility for approximately 3 years during construction of the permanent casino and entertainment complex at Chicago Avenue and Halsted. An FAQ document can be accessed here

August 2023: Temporary Facility Developments

On August 31, city officials representing various departments convened a meeting to brief local community and business organizations on the status of the temporary casino facility being constructed in the historic Medinah Temple building on Wabash, between Ontario and Ohio in River North. During the meeting, many issues of concern to the community were raised, including public safety, vehicular and pedestrian traffic management, liquor service, and parking. RNRA has prepared a brief summary of the information provided by Bally’s and City Officials, which can be accessed here.

Practice gaming sessions, required by the Illinois Gaming Board prior to the issuance of a final operating permit, will be conducted on September 6 and 7. During these sessions, all aspects of facility operations will be monitored to ensure that legal and regulatory requirements, including those pertaining to gaming activities, security, and food and beverage service, are satisfied. If the results of the practice sessions are deemed acceptable by the IGB, operations could begin shortly thereafter.

On August 4, Bally’s announced that the opening of the temporary facility at Medinah Temple will be  postponed until September. Gaming machines are installed and Bally’s is working through testing of wagering operations, results of which must be presented to the city and the IGB. Once that hurdle is cleared, it could pave the way for the venue to open. The story may be viewed here.

July 2023: RNRA Continues Advocacy for High-Priority Issues

On July 25, RNRA sent a letter to Aldermen Reilly, Burnett, and Hopkins, 18th District Commander Michael Barz, and Deputy Chief Jon Hein, recommending several measures to improve public safety and reduce public disruption in the neighborhoods surrounding the temporary and permanent facilities. RNRA appreciates the willingness of Bally’s representatives and administration officials to engage in meaningful dialogue about the impact of these casinos on the host communities and plans to meet with both parties in the near future to discuss these matters. The July 25 letter may be viewed here.

June 2023: IGB Grants Determination of Suitability

On June 20, Alderman Reilly and RNRA expressed ongoing concerns about the temporary facility. The CBS interviews may be viewed here.

On June 16, RNRA issued a press release in response to the IGB determination, which may be viewed here.

On June 15, the Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously to grant a Determination of Preliminary Suitability to Bally’s Chicago Operating Company, LLC. Though not a final approval, this is an important step on the path towards the opening of the company’s temporary casino at Medinah Temple, which is expected in late summer of this year. The temporary facility will operate for approximately three years during construction of the much larger permanent facility at Halsted Street and Chicago Avenue. A video recording of the meeting may be viewed here

May 2023: Bally’s Releases Revised Casino Renderings

On May 13, the new renderings are included in an article by Crain’s Chicago Business, which may be viewed here.

May 2023: Tribune Publishing Agrees to Exit Printing Plant

On May 5, the Chicago Tribune announced that, after months of negotiation, Tribune Publishing has agreed to leave the Freedom Center printing plant in River West by July 2024 to make way for Bally’s Chicago Casino. More here.

April 2023: RNRA meets with City Officials 

On April 11, 2023, RNRA leaders met with several City of Chicago Officials via videoconference to discuss a recent letter from RNRA regarding the design of the proposed theater space, the water taxi stop location, and traffic issues. The letter may be viewed here.

February 2023: IGB Issues First Approvals for Temporary Site

On February 17, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) unanimously approved supplier licenses for groups associated with Chicago’s historic Medinah Temple. The first went to Medinah Building LLC, which oversees the building itself. The second went to Medinah Holdings LLC, which covers the land the building sits on.

December 2022: Chicago Casino Surmounts Several Hurdles

On December 14, the full Council voted 39-5 to approve the zoning changes. The video recording may be viewed here.

On December 13, the City Council’s Zoning Committee voted 10-4 to in favor of the planned casino development. All 3 versions of PD 1426 may be viewed via the following links: Oct 2018-Original, September 2022-Bally’s Proposal, December 2022-Final Amendment.

On December 12, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s Plan Commission held a hearing, at which amendments to Planned Development 1426, submitted by the Bally’s organization, were considered. RNRA submitted a written statement and presented oral testimony at the hearing. After discussion concluded, the Chicago Plan Commission voted to approve PD 1426 as Amended. The agenda may be viewed here. RNRA’s statement may be viewed here. The video recording may be viewed here.

December 2022: Permanent Casino Town Hall Meeting

On December 5, the City conducted a Town Hall meeting at 700 W Chicago Ave on the permanent casino site at the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center. At this meeting, Bally’s representatives confirmed that the site plan no longer includes a pedestrian bridge to Ward Park or an outdoor performance venue, both of which were opposed by RNRA. Other changes from the original plan include more extensive riverfront green space with an onsite dog run, and security improvements extending beyond the casino site. Details on these changes are pending. The presentation deck may be viewed here. A video recording of the event may be viewed here (from the main livestream page, scroll down to the 12/5/22 video). The statement presented by RNRA may be viewed here.

November 2022: Temporary Casino Town Hall Meeting

On November 29, the City conducted a Town Hall meeting at the VOCO Hotel for the temporary casino site at Medinah Temple. The presentation deck may be viewed here. A video recording of the event may be viewed here (from the main livestream page, scroll down to the 11/29/22 video). The statement presented by RNRA may be viewed here

October 2022: Bally’s Enters into Labor Agreement

On October 17, Bally’s Corporation announced that it has signed a Multi-Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with the Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council (CCBT) and the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department as it relates to construction of its flagship Bally’s Chicago casino. The press release may be viewed here.

September  2022: Medinah Traffic Study is Updated

On September 22, an updated version of the Traffic Impact Study was released for the area surrounding the temporary casino facility at Medinah Temple. The Study may be viewed here.

September 2022: CCAC is Finalized

On September 8, Mayor Lightfoot’s office issued a press release announcing the composition of the 20-member Casino Community Advisory Council (CCAC), which will meet quarterly beginning in October. RNRA will be ably represented by the Volunteer Chair of our Development and Land Use Committee, Ms. Robin Schabes. We look forward to a meaningful and productive process. The Mayor’s press release may be viewed here.

Robin Schabes was subsequently confirmed as Vice-Chair of the CCAC. The roster may be viewed here.

On September 14, the Department of Planning and Development’s Committee on Design conducted a meeting to review the latest plans for the permanent casino. The meeting was live-streamed for members of the CCAC, many of whom actively participated in the dialogue. The video recording may be viewed here. The presentation deck may be viewed here

August 2022: Bally’s Submits Casino Application to IGB

On August 10, Bally’s filed its application with the Illinois Gaming Board, taking a major step in the process to build Chicago’s first casino and the flagship property for its fast-growing company. Click here for more.

July 2022: First Community Meeting on Temporary Casino Site

On July 19, City officials hosted a webinar, at which Bally’s representatives and project architects described their plans for transforming the Medinah Temple property into a temporary casino, while preserving historically significant elements of the iconic building. Presenters did not entertain any questions about the temporary facility that were not directly related to historic preservation, but assured participants that they would be addressed in a separate forum. A recording of the webinar may be viewed here.

July 2022: First Direct Meeting between Bally’s and RNRA 

On July 7, officials representing Bally’s Corporation met for several hours with members of the RNRA leadership team to discuss each of the 42 project improvement recommendations published in June 14. A summary of the initial meeting may be viewed here

June 2022: RNRA Joins Casino Community Advisory Council (CCAC)

On June 23, RNRA issued a letter to city officials, media outlets and and other stakeholders, designating its representative on the CCAC. The letter may be viewed here.

On June 16,  the City issued a press release stating that the Mayor “looks forward to continuing to engage with community through the establishment of a Casino Community Advisory Council”. Details and a link to the application form may be accessed here.

June 2022: RNRA Issues Casino Improvement Recommendations

At each Casino Community Meeting, Bally’s representatives and City Officials talked about a robust community engagement process that would take place if the proposal were approved by the City Council, during which, adjustments to the initial plan would be reviewed and considered. On June 14, RNRA issued a document, outlining improvements aimed at reducing potential negative impacts from this development, to City Officials, Members of the Special City Council Casino Committee, and the Illinois Gaming Board.

Each recommendation has been prioritized and annotated to reflect changes or additional information announced since the original publication. The document may be viewed here

June 2022: Bally’s executes Host Community Agreement

On June 9, Bally’s executed a Host Community Agreement (HCA). The agreement may be viewed here.

June 2022: Friends of the Chicago River Submits Recommendations

On June 8, Friends of the Chicago River, a highly regarded environmental advocacy organization, released recommendations intended to improve the Casino project’s impact on the river regarding animal and plant habitats, and accessibility. The presentation may be viewed here

May 2022: City Council approves casino proposal

On May 25, over the objections of 42nd Ward Alderman Reilly, 2nd Ward Alderman Hopkins, 43rd Ward Alderwoman Michele Smith, and others, the full City Council approved the Bally’s Tribune casino development recommended by Mayor Lightfoot, including both the permanent facility at Chicago and Halsted and the temporary facility in the Medinah Temple building at 600 N Wabash, by a vote of 41 to 7. The matter must now go to the Illinois Gaming Board for final approval. The City Council meeting may be viewed here.

May 2022: ordinance approved by Special Committee on Casinos

On May 23, the Special City Council Committee on Casinos approved an ordinance amending Titles 2, 4, 8 and 17 of the Municipal Code regarding a casino in the City of Chicago (O2022-1316) (Direct Introduction to the Committee on 5-9-22); and a resolution concerning the development and operation of a casino in the City of Chicago by a vote of 27 to 3. The meeting may be viewed here.

May 2022: Chicago Casino Town Hall

On May 12, the city hosted a public town hall meeting on the Bally’s Tribune proposal. The event was held at the UIC Pavillion, located at 725 W Roosevelt, 2 1/2 miles south of the development site. Following a presentation by city officials and the Bally’s team, attendees were given 90 seconds each to ask questions or make statements. RNRA’s statement is posted here

May 2022: RNRA submits questions to Bally’s

On May 11, RNRA submitted a list of questions about the proposed Tribune site development to Bally’s Corporation officials. These questions were also shared with administration officials, members of the Special City Council Casino Committee and local media outlets. Bally’s responses to these questions will be posted online and shared upon receipt. RNRA’s questions for Bally’s Corp are posted here.

May 2022: RNRA issues response

On May 6, RNRA published an official response to the Mayor’s announcement. The RNRA response is posted here.

May 2022: City announces selection of Bally’s Tribune site

On May 5, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the Bally’s Tribune proposal was her choice for the Chicago casino. The press conference may be viewed here.

April 2022: RNRA Releases Video Statement on Proposed Casino

April 2022: RNRA publishes critique of Bally’s Tribune assessment

Also on April 6, RNRA introduced a critique of the assessment of the Bally’s Tribune proposal, which is contained in the city’s evaluation report. This critique, developed by RNRA’s Development and Land Use Committee and sent to the office of the Mayor and Members of the Special City Council Committee on the Chicago Casino, raised important questions about key elements of the proposal. The critique is posted here.

Working with city officials, RNRA has obtained detailed responses to each of the questions raised by the critique, which have been compiled in a summary Q&A document. The casino assessment critique Q&A is posted here

April 2022: RNRA launches public casino survey

On April 6, RNRA launched a public survey to capture candid feedback from impacted members of the community. The introduction to the survey included links to all of the materials prepared by the developers and the city, as well as to RNRA documents raising questions about, and pointing out potential negative impacts from, the proposed development. The survey was structured in such a way that respondents could express support for, or opposition to, the casino with equal ease. To date, over 2,800 respondents have participated, with more than 87% expressing strong or moderate opposition. The results may be viewed here.

Regardless of your position on this issue, if you haven’t taken the survey yet, please do so and let your voice be heard. If you feel strongly about this, please to contact your Alderperson via email or phone and let them know what you think. Contact information for all 50 Wards is here. Thank you for being part of the process.

March 2022: IDHS publishes statewide problem gambling study

Commissioned by IDHS and conducted by researchers at Health Resources in Action (HRIA), the assessment reports on the prevalence of different types of gambling in the state, the availability of treatment and other services, the prevalence of problem gambling among different groups, and overall attitudes about gambling. The report may be viewed here.

March 2022: City announces 3 finalists

On March 22, the City announced the selection of three finalists, one of which will receive the sole license to operate a Casino in our city. The Bally’s Tribune site is among these finalists. Three community meetings were scheduled so that attendees could learn more about each site and have an opportunity to ask questions and share comments or concerns. Every seat in the April 6 meeting about the Bally’s Tribune proposal was reserved, which demonstrates the level of public interest in this issue. Those who were unable to attend should watch the Livestream

December 2021: RNRA raises concerns about Tribune site development

RNRA’s Development and Land Use Committee and Board of Directors reviewed the proposal for a Bally’s casino to be located on the site of the Chicago Tribune publishing facility known as the Freedom Center, located at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street. On December 3, the RNRA Board sent a letter to Aldermen Walter Burnett (27), Brendan Reilly (42)  and Brian Hopkins (2), as well as to Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development, and Maurice Cox, Commissioner, Department of Planning & Development. This letter described the significant negative impacts that a such a large-scale entertainment complex would have on traffic, public safety and quality of life for thousands of residents in the densely populated surrounding area. The letter is posted here.

November 2021: City announces 5 bidders under consideration

These proposals, along with the original RFP, public presentations, traffic studies, and the city’s Evaluation Report, can be accessed here

Spring 2021: City requests casino proposals

In the spring of 2021, the City of Chicago requested multiple proposals for the development of Chicago’s first casino complex.