Bally's casino firms up commitment for hotel in Chicago

Opponents of a Bally's casino at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street suggested Monday that Mayor Lori Lightfoot is trying to stampede the city council to give a premature stamp of approval.

"The last time we were given less than two weeks to vet and approve a deal, it blew up in our faces. And it was called the parking meter deal," said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward).

The Chicago City Council's special casino committee met for only the second time on Monday.

City officials claimed cutting a deal with Bally's would bring more revenue to the city than either of the two competing bids in terms of upfront cash and an annual guarantee.


"Bally's will pay $40 million upfront, $4 million annually in perpetuity and the city's development costs, which represents $128 million of net present value. Bally's annual payments starts one to one and a half years earlier than other bidders," said Jenny Huang Bennett, the city’s chief financial officer.

Critics of the Bally's deal suggested Lightfoot and the people evaluating the bids from other operators had not been transparent in their decision-making process and had, for example, falsely claimed that the other two bidders -- Hard Rock and Rivers casinos -- failed to negotiate a comprehensive agreement with labor unions.

"We're making unfair accusations to the other two entities if in fact they did enter in good faith negotiations come to an agreement on terms thinking that they still had a chance to be selected and only to be told now that they never did such. They never got to an agreement with organized labor that would've passed muster. I think that is unfair to both of them," said. Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward).

Bally's had originally committed to build only 100 rooms of what was touted as a 500-room hotel. The company's now agreed to do it within five years of opening the casino, as long as its revenue hits a certain level.