Permanent facility to open in 2026

Illinois regulator grants Bally's extension for temporary casino; no companies make it through sports betting process

Reading time 2:47 min

The Illinois Gaming Board granted on Thursday Bally's Chicago a four-year license and a 12-month extension to operate its temporary casino at Medinah Temple. The approvals give Bally’s, which opened the temporary casino last month, until September 2026 to build out its permanent facility at the site of the Chicago Tribune’s printing plant.

Mark Wong, Vice President and General Manager of Bally’s Chicago, told the Gaming Board that the company may need all of that time to clear out the Tribune and construct the expansive casino and entertainment complex along the Chicago River.

"We're all very confident that we'll meet the timeline," Wong said, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. "However, it is a huge project, and it will probably take every bit of the two, two and a half years that will be required to build."

Bally's ribbon-cutting ceremony at Medinah Temple last month

Furthermore, the Gaming Board announced that the state has failed a second time to award an online-only sports betting license, with the only applicant withdrawing this week. It is full speed ahead, however, for Bally’s Chicago, the state's 15th casino.

On September 8, the Gaming Board issued Bally’s Chicago a temporary operating permit, enabling it to open the Medinah Temple casino. Now, the board unanimously approved a four-year ownership license through October 2027.

With the 12-month temporary casino extension, Bally’s temporary Medinah Temple gambling hall will be able to operate for up to three years. Bally's hopes to open the permanent casino by 2026, featuring 3,400 slots and 170 table games. Moreover, Bally’s has said the permanent gambling venue will generate upward of $800 million per year.

Earlier this month, Bally's reported its figures for its soft launch period, from its Sept. 9 opening through Sept. 30, amassing close to $7 million in revenue during its initial three weeks of operation. This revenue comprises roughly $4.3 million generated from its 800 slot machines and $2.4 million from the 56 table games.

While temporary casino licenses are for two years, both American Place in Waukegan and Hard Rock Rockford were also granted 12-month extensions by the Gaming Board in June, allowing them to operate at their temporary locations for three years while building permanent casinos. However, Bally’s Chicago won’t be able to begin construction at the permanent site until Tribune Publishing exits the Freedom Center. 

But as casino expansion continues, sports wagering took a small step backward when the state struck out again this week to award an online-only sports betting license.

Approved in 2019, the Illinois Sports Wagering Act allows the state’s casinos, horse tracks, and seven of the largest sports venues to open both a retail and online sportsbook. It also created three online-only sports betting licenses. Last year, the state came up empty when four companies applied for the three online licenses, but none made it through the process.

The Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter

The Gaming Board reopened the selection process and set a March 1 deadline, drawing two applications. One withdrew in July, leaving one qualified applicant. DGC IL, a subsidiary of Las Vegas-based Digital Gaming Corp., was announced in July as the only qualified applicant for the online sportsbook license. However, on Thursday, the Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter announced that DGC IL also withdrew its application earlier this week.

"So as a result, there are no qualified bidders or applicants, which means that this supplemental competitive bidding process for the online-only master sports wagering license will conclude without any licenses being issued," Fruchter said. "That’s all that we have to say about that at this time."

There are 11 operating sportsbooks in Illinois, including two that launched in the last two months. In August, nine Illinois sportsbooks took in more than $664 million in wagers and generated adjusted gross revenue of nearly $47 million, according to the Gaming Board.

The state permanently waived an in-person registration requirement for sports betting in March 2022, opening the door in Chicago for national players such as FanDuel and DraftKings, which are partnered with downstate casinos. Nearly 97% of Illinois sports betting took place online in August, according to Gaming Board data.

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