Approved for operation through Sept 2026

Chicago: Proposed law could extend Bally's temporary Medinah Temple casino operations

Reading time 1:52 min

A proposed piece of legislation could potentially extend the operating period of Bally’s temporary casino at the Medinah Temple in Chicago beyond the originally planned three-year timeframe.

The Illinois Senate approved a bill on October 24th, aimed at amending the state's gambling law, which currently restricts new casinos to a maximum of 24 months of operation at a temporary site while they construct a permanent facility.

At present, operators have the option to request a 12-month extension, as Bally's successfully did last month, gaining approval to keep Medinah open until September 9, 2026.

The new bill, sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat from Chicago, seeks to allow casino operators to request an extension of their temporary stay for any duration deemed necessary or appropriate by the Illinois Gaming Board, Chicago Sun-Times reported. The Illinois House is expected to address this bill during the General Assembly's upcoming veto session.

Cunningham clarified that this amendment was introduced at the request of officials in Waukegan, where Full House Resorts has been held back from constructing its permanent casino due to a lawsuit involving a rejected bidder for the project.

Bally's Chicago interior

Notably, Bally's lobbyists were not involved in crafting the legislation, and the bill was not primarily driven by Bally's downtown development project. Nevertheless, Cunningham acknowledged that the bill's flexible language could potentially benefit the Bally's casino project at some point, the report said.

The bill, which includes other adjustments to gaming laws, sailed through the Senate with a 50-7 vote and without any debate. Cunningham anticipates a smooth passage in the State House of Representatives, where Representative Lisa Hernandez, a Democrat from Cicero and the chair of the Illinois Democratic Party, is the bill's chief sponsor.

Under Bally's agreement with Tribune Publishing, the company is unable to commence construction at the permanent site until July 2024. This leaves just over two years for Bally's to complete their extensive 505,000-square-foot casino and hotel tower at 777 W. Chicago Ave.

Regulators raised concerns about this tight deadline during a recent meeting with Bally's Chicago general manager Mark Wong. Nevertheless, Bally's executives expressed confidence during a quarterly earnings call, affirming their expectation that the permanent casino would be ready for opening in September 2026. Chairman Soo Kim described the Chicago project as their highest priority.

Bally's is currently under lease at the Medinah Temple until December 2026, with an agreement guaranteeing $16.5 million in rent payments to Albert Friedman, a prominent River North developer. The lease can potentially be extended through early 2029.

Since its opening to gamblers at 600 N. Wabash Ave in early September, Medinah has welcomed over 157,000 visitors. The temporary operation generated approximately $6.7 million in its initial weeks, contributing about $695,000 in tax revenue for the Chicago police and firefighter pension funds.

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