Bally's Zoning Changes Plans For Chicago Casino Project Get City Council Committee Approval

Bally's Zoning Changes Plans For Chicago Casino Project Get City Council Committee Approval

Bally’s zoning plans for a $1.7 billion casino in River West were approved on Tuesday in a 10-4 vote by the City Council Zoning Committee, which signed off on the company’s plans for a casino and entertainment complex on the site of the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center printing plant.

If approved by the City Council, the new zoning would allow for a casino with 4,000 gaming positions, a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater and event center, and a riverwalk. Future phases will include up to 4,800 apartments and condos, 250 hotel rooms, retail space and a new public park.

The project is slated to create 3,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs at the casino and entertainment complex.

The Chicago Plan Commission signed off on the project on Monday and at that meeting, Ald. Walter Burnett, whose ward will be home to Bally’s casino, had threatened to “raise a lot of hell” at Tuesday’s meeting if he did not see Bally’s workforce development plan with Chicago labor unions, to ensure sufficient hiring of minorities.

Bally’s executives at the committee reaffirmed pledges that 46% of all contracts will go to minority- or women-owned firms and that 60% of hiring will go to minorities. Christopher Jewett, vice president of corporate development at Bally’s, said he is confident the company can keep those commitments.

The full City Council is expected to sign off on the zoning changes needed for the project on Wednesday. The full City Council previously approved Bally’s casino bid in May by a 41-7 vote.

Bally’s is still awaiting approval for its casino license from the Illinois Gaming Board. The company plans to open a temporary casino in the landmark Medinah Temple building in River North in the second quarter of 2023, with the permanent casino in River West expected to open in the first quarter of 2026.

Critics have accused Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration of ramming the Bally’s plan through City Council without properly addressing concerns about how the already congested River West neighborhood will handle the influx of additional traffic, and how the casino might lead to an increase in crime.

City officials have assured the casino will generate $200 million a year in tax revenue for the city, which will go towards the city’s underfunded police and fire pension systems. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her allies said earlier this year that without the casino revenue, the city would be forced to seek a major property tax increase to shore up those pension funds.