Chicago’s first and only casino could open as soon as this Saturday, pending approval by the Illinois Gaming Board. Bally’s is slated to open a temporary casino in one of the city’s most iconic and historic buildings, the Medinah Temple.
“We have to show our regulators that we are ready, as ready as we can be,” said Ameet Patel, Bally’s Corporation senior vice president and regional general manager.
On Tuesday, media members were granted a sneak peek inside the temporary River North casino. Bally’s has a license to operate in the temple for up to three years. The casino will relocate to a permanent $1.7 billion gaming and resort facility at the old Chicago Tribune Publishing Center in River West.
The last hurdle for Bally’s to open at the temporary location is Wednesday and Thursday, when state gaming officials review practice gaming sessions before granting final approval.
When the temporary casino does open, visitors will be treated to an experience that features 750 slot machines and 50 table games, including roulette, baccarat and craps. The bulk of the slot machines and a cafe featuring locally sourced items will occupy the first floor of the three-level facility.
The second floor will be a mix of slot machines and gaming tables, while the third will be reserved for VIPs and “high rollers,” though Bally’s officials declined to mention the betting level for VIPs. Two restaurants also occupy the building, a bistro and another serving Asian fusion cuisine.
At the temporary casino, designers made a concerted effort to incorporate the latest casino gaming themes while maintaining the historic and prominent features of the Medinah Temple, built by the Shriners in 1912. The temporary casino will operate under the original onion dome ceiling of the Moorish-style amphitheater while maintaining its ornate and dazzling stained glass windows. Designers also retained the original escalators from when the building housed a Bloomingdale’s retail store.
Everything, including the design and development, layout and ambiance, products and services, has all been cultivated with a singular goal: “That is to create a ‘wow’ experience,” said Patel.
Indeed, beams of amber lighting and a massive circular bar stocked with spirits flanked by colorful slot machines to either side greet people who walk through the door.
When media members were invited to tour the casino, custodians meticulously vacuumed the swirly Blue and red carpeting throughout the facility.
According to company officials, Bally’s selected 700 people out of a pool of 16,000 applicants, with 300 of them working as dealers. This week’s review by state gaming regulators is the culmination of a 14-month process that included job fairs, recruitment, development and training of employees. Card dealer applicants were identified and trained through a partnership with City Colleges of Chicago.
The temporary location is expected to generate around $55 million in tax revenue.
Chicago’s first and only casino came to fruition when former Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that Bally’s would be the sole casino operator at the Tribune Publishing Center back in May 2022.
The permanent Bally’s casino is slated to include a 500-room hotel tower, a 3,000-seat theater, an outdoor park and music venue and a space for 3,400 slots and 170 table games. It is also projected to generate $200 million in annual revenue, with some earmarked for Chicago police and firefighter pensions.
The permanent gaming multiplex is projected to open in 2026.