Hopes to open next month

Chicago: Bally's gets preliminary approval for its temporary casino at Medinah Temple

Medinah Temple.
Reading time 1:40 min

On Thursday, the Illinois Gaming Board approved a "determination of preliminary suitability" for Bally’s plan for a temporary casino at Medinah Temple in River North. The company must still get a temporary operating permit for the facility, and clear a number of legal requirements, including a two- to four-day test run of the temporary casino before the facility can open.

If the business clears those hurdles, the Board's administrator could issue the temporary operating permit without the need for another vote by the board. The group has said it hopes to open the temporary casino by late summer, but it's unclear if they'll be able to clear all of the Gaming Board requirements by then.

Bally's chairman Soo Kim called the process for gaining state approval of the first casino in Chicago "a pretty weighty thing." "We've asked the city of Chicago to bet on Bally's, and we're here to pay that bet off," Kim told the Gaming Board, as reported by CBS News. "This facility and the permanent will be our flagship, but also I think will be the flagship of Illinois gaming."

Bally's chairman Soo Kim

The temporary casino is expected to create more than 500 jobs, with the $1.7 billion permanent casino in River West expected to create 3,000 jobs once it's approved and built, according to Bally's chief legal officer Kim Barker Lee. Moreover, the company announced it aims to have a workforce that includes 60% people of color, 45% women, 5% military veterans, and 5% people with disabilities.

Bally's hopes to open the permanent casino at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Streets, featuring 3,400 slots and 170 table games, in early 2026. In addition to the casino itself, the permanent site will include a 500-room hotel, 10 bars, and restaurants, a 3,000-seat entertainment center, new park space along the Chicago River, a water taxi stop, and more. As for the temporary casino, the company said it will have 750 slots and 50 table games in the 134,000-square-foot facility. 

Bally's rendering of its permanent casino

However, the River North facility has seen some opposition from locals who fear the new casino would increase crime, traffic congestion, and trouble parking, issues that seem to remain unresolved.  

But Kim is hoping residents will keep an open mind. "Everyone should just judge for themselves. You know, don't take someone else's word for you. Come on back, and then I think you'll like it," he said.

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