Bally’s Corp Faces Uncertainty Over $800m Budget Gap for Chicago Casino Project


Bally’s Corp, one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the United States, is trying to juggle multiple balls in the air as it grapples with pressing challenges surrounding its much-touted casino project in Chicago. Following a booming revenue record in its temporary Chicago gaming site in May, Bally’s is set to begin drumming up the anticipated permanent gambling outlet situated on Freedom Center grounds in the city’s River West district. Yet, there’s a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the project, stoked by Chicago’s unambiguous Mayor, Brandon Johnson.

Despite Bally’s promising outlook evident in its recent temporary facility’s success, Johnson’s commentary during a sit-down with the Chicago Sun-Times board suggests that this doesn’t guarantee that the casino will see the light of day. The Mayor pointed out that Bally’s faces numerous hurdles, and topping the list is plugging an $800 million budget gap. This pressing need has triggered concern over whether or not the much-hyped casino hotel will ever cross the line to completion.

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Drawing words from his conversation with the Sun-Times editorial, Johnson shared, “I wish I could speak in absolutes about the future of Bally’s in our city today. My team is working hand-in-hand with the ownership to hammer out the details, much like we’ve done with other inherited obstacles. Every step has to make absolute sense, and it seems we’re not quite there yet. It remains uncertain, to be frank with you,” Conned as the lifeline for the project, Bally’s has a hefty $500 million credit facility. Among this sum, $250 million has already been used to buy Freedom Center’s land, the former site of the Chicago Tribune.

Rattling the uncertainty in the teapot, Bally’s was granted the only Chicago casino permit in May 2022 by the former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a move that courted controversy due to allegations of graft that were believed to have hampered a competitive bidding process. The story doesn’t end there for Bally’s – with more storms brewing in the distance. Bally’s director Soo Kim’s hedge fund, Standard General, has expressed interest in purchasing the regional casino company for a $15 per share tag. While the offer is still up for deliberation, investors are sounding warning bells about an uncertain future for the Chicago project.

Meanwhile, Bally’s is battling other calamities. A pivotal issue is the predicament of where to place the hotel on the Freedom Center property. Earlier this year, it was revealed to the shock of many, that the original hotel site was impractical, as construction threatens a network of existing underground water pipes. The hotel, deemed an essential piece of the Bally’s Chicago casino puzzle, could consume a generous portion of the $1.34 billion Bally’s has legally committed to invest in Chicago. Yet, $1.1 billion of this investment obligation remains untouched, according to the Sun-Times.

As the countdown to the projected groundbreaking in July continues, the intended opening date stares at an approaching horizon of September 2026. As such, the next chapter will be closely watched as anticipation surrounds the fate of Bally’s ambitious expansion in the Windy City.