On September 9, 2023, Bally’s Casino Complex launched its operations at Medinah Temple in River North, thus becoming Chicago’s first land-based downtown casino resort. Enthusiastic gamblers queued up last Saturday at 8 a.m. for a chance to be the first to place a wager on any of the varied range of casino games. The operator passed a planned two-day test run overseen by the Illinois Gaming Board on September 6 and 7, meeting all state requirements.
Built in 1912, the Medinah Temple is an imposing historic building, which will temporarily house the casino until it moves to its permanent site in the River West neighborhood. The transfer is scheduled to take place in 2026.
Although Illinois’ first casino opened its doors back in 1991, Chicago could not enjoy a piece of the gambling action until now. After years of scheduling, the city began welcoming operators’ applications in April 2023, eagerly anticipating the positive consequences. A world-class gambling entertainment venue would accelerate growth in Chicago’s dynamic economy and create favorable conditions for employment and financial opportunities.
Taking a look inside the grand complex, one cannot help but be impressed by the luxurious interior. Even though Medinah Temple will temporarily house the casino complex for several years, the gambling venue was designed with great attention to the smallest detail. Customers will be greeted by a colossal bar at the casino’s entrance, creating a sense of an exceptional welcome.
The interior features dark blue carpeting with bright orange patterns. Patrons will get to enjoy the stained glass windows of the historic building. Some of the walls are adorned with Masonic friezes which add instant character to the gambling venue.
The casino operations will be accommodated across three floors, with the Medinah Temple rotunda overlooking on top. The first floor houses around 800 slot machines along with a cafe. More than 50 table games are available as well. The top floor will be reserved for high rollers. The gambling venue will ensure approximately 700 job positions and its customer capacity will reach 3,500 people. Overall, Bally’s Casino is not intended to be the typical flamboyant casino complex but looks to preserve the unique historic character of the venue.
Economic and Community Expectations
The overall expectations are high that the casino will propel business activity in the neighboring stores, cafes, and restaurants located in River North. Currently, retail vacancy rates on Michigan Avenue stand at nearly 30%. However, others are uncertain whether the newly launched business will come up to the high economic expectations.
Bally’s Casino Revenue Projections stand at $102.5 million for 2023, $242.7 million for 2024, and $253.6 million for 2025. The figures for 2026, 2027, and 2028, when the casino will move to its permanent site are $638.6 million, $750.9 million, and $805.6 million, respectively.
The upfront payment for the winning bid was $40 million. Furthermore, following 30 days of casino operation, Bally’s is supposed to pay an additional $135 million in fees to the Chicago Gaming Board. The projected annual income for the city stands at approximately $55 million for 2024.
Chicago Mayor, Brandon Johnson, earlier confirmed that the tax proceeds from the casino operations at Medinah Temple will be directed toward the city’s police and firefighters’ pension funds.