Chicago casino approved by City Council

Chicago City Council voted to approve zoning for the $1.7 billion Bally's casino in River West Wednesday.

The City Council voted 39-5 to approve the proposal. 

Bally’s proposal, embraced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, includes a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater and event center, and a riverwalk. The casino will get 4,000 gaming positions.

The approval comes two days after the Chicago Planning Commission granted zoning for the casino at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

Approval from alderpersons gives Bally’s the zoning authority to start construction, but the company still needs approval from the Illinois Gaming Board to operate in Chicago.


If it gets that, Bally’s intends to open a temporary casino in Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave., perhaps next year. It hopes to have the permanent casino, a $1.7 billion investment, open in 2026.

Bally’s executives at the committee meeting 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 Bally’s can keep those commitments based on experiences in other cities.

Image 1 of 8

Renderings provided by Bally

In an interview later with the Sun-Times, Burnett said the trade unions and Bally’s are working together on minority hiring and that the city has a strong contractual pledge on the subject from the casino operator. "Everybody is in sync to make sure they’re hiring from the community," he said.

Several zoning committee members praised the casino for the union jobs it will provide and for its financial benefits to the city, which has already gotten a $40 million payment from Bally’s.

Before the final vote, downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) appealed to his colleagues one more time not to roll the dice with an under-capitalized Bally’s team with no track record running a big-city casino, let alone building a massive project.

"We’re hitching our wagon to an inexperienced team. … That could come back to haunt us," Hopkins said.

Local Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) countered that the casino project is "bigger than anybody’s ego," adding: "This is something that three administrations have been trying to do. This mayor got it done. … With this casino, we’re gonna get $200 million a year, man, to help us out. We’re talking about 6,000 jobs" in a neighborhood "we used to call Ghost Town."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.