Two major operations

Bally's expects Tropicana Vegas acquisition to close in September; files Chicago casino application with Illinois regulator

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Bally’s Corporation is moving forward with two major projects in two different US states, which involve the Tropicana acquisition in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Chicago's first casino project, in Illinois.

On the Nevada front, the company said it will close the $308 million transaction with land owner Gaming and Leisure Properties, announced in April last year, at the end of September. Nevertheless, Bally's executives said in its second-quarter earnings conference call last week it will be well into 2023 before any redevelopment takes place on the 34-acre south-Strip location, The Nevada Independent reports.

“I think it's well-advertised that we intend to develop (the site) at some point in the future,” Bally’s CEO Lee Fenton said. “But we will run the property on an as-is basis at least for the next 12 months until we have identified the plan and the partnerships that we want going forward.”

Back in January, Bally's chairman Soohyung Kim said the company was open to exploring a series of options, including the demolition of the venue. He also said the property will most likely be reimagined and renamed “Bally’s.” The company has done this with 13 of its 14 casinos, including its Evansville, Indiana, property that was formerly known as Tropicana Evansville.

California-based Oakland Athletics, a professional baseball team in the MLB, has been looking for a site for a new ballpark in both Oakland and Las Vegas, and officials have been to Las Vegas several times to scout locations, the local news site reports. One of the alternatives is the land where the Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel & Casino currently sits, which would also be still on the table. However, A’s executives have said they would like to have a decision on a new home this year. 

Bally's CEO Lee Fenton

Gaming and Leisure Properties said in August last year that it was working with Bally's regarding "potential for more assets" on 35 acres of the property. Bally’s has affiliations with the MLB via Sinclair broadcasting network.

Regarding the transaction, Bally’s said it would pay GLPI $10.5 million annually to lease the site under a 50-year rental that is subject to increases. Bally’s purchase of the property still needs approval by Nevada gaming regulators. The matter is currently not scheduled to be heard on this month’s agenda.

Chicago application

Bally’s filed its application to build Chicago’s first casino with the Illinois Gaming Board on Wednesday, and the application was posted on the regulator's website Thursday morning.

The company said it would spend $70 million to open a temporary casino at Medinah Temple by next June while constructing the $1.7 billion permanent hotel-casino at the former Chicago Tribune site downtown along the Chicago River, which could require an accelerated process at the gaming board, according to that local newspaper. The $1.74 billion resort is expected to open in 2026.

Next required steps to meet that timeline are to win license approval from the state and finalize its proposal with the city’s planning department. 

Illinois allows casinos to operate in a temporary facility for up to two years, with the ability to apply for an additional 12-month extension, before opening a permanent location. It took the most recent licensee, Hard Rock Casino Rockford, 16 months to get preliminary approval from the board and two years to open a temporary casino, Chicago Tribune reports.

Bally's Chair Soo Kim

Besides logistical issues, there has also been some pushback to using the 110-year-old Medinah Temple, which was designated a Chicago landmark in 2001, as a temporary casino. On Aug. 5, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks issued conditional approval for the plan, saying it “would not have an adverse effect” on the landmark property.

In addition, City officials say Bally’s must still receive both liquor and zoning approvals before the temporary casino could open. 

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

In May, the full Chicago City Council voted 41 to 7 to approve Bally's Corporation casino project, which defeated the other two finalists, Hard Rock and Rush Street Gaming.