Bally’s Applies For An Illinois Sportsbook License

Written By Matt Boecker on September 21, 2022Last Updated on September 22, 2022
Shortly after applying to run a mobile sportsbook in Illinois, Bally's consulted on its casino proposal with Chicago’s Committee on Design.

With Bally’s set to open a casino in Chicago in coming years, the gaming operator recently applied to bring its mobile wagering app to the Land of Lincoln.

Bally’s applied to the Illinois Gaming Board on Sept. 12 for a license to be a Management Services Provider. This is the first step in the lengthy process for gaming operators to open an Illinois sportsbook.

Currently, there are only seven mobile sportsbooks in the Prairie State. But Circa Sports will be the eighth once American Place Casino opens in Waukegan, as the two will be partnered.

Bally’s makes headway on Illinois casino

Bally’s also made headway on its Chicago casino proposal. Representatives from Bally’s recently met with Chicago’s Committee on Design (CoD) for two hours to discuss various aspects of the casino proposal.

Many of the topics related to how Bally’s would impact the River North and River West neighborhoods. Bally’s is planning to build its casino at the location of the Chicago Tribune printing site and newsroom along the Chicago River.

The Committee on Design is a group of 24 volunteer urban design professionals overseen by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The CoD’s purpose is to advise commissioner Maurice Cox and the DPD on design excellence for major construction projects, like Bally’s.

Here are some of the key points of discussion from the meeting.

CoD holds no legal power over Bally’s

One thing to note before getting into the highlights of the meeting is Bally’s isn’t legally obligated to incorporate any of the concepts introduced by CoD members. The CoD is an advisory board, therefore it can only make alteration suggestions to Bally’s casino proposal.

The Chicago Plan Commission, Committee on Zoning and City Council will need to approve the proposal before Bally’s can begin construction. Bally’s is hoping to break ground on the casino early in 2023.

How does Bally’s plan to avoid congestion?

A major concern neighborhood residents have is the major increase in traffic. Bally’s has this plan in place to alleviate heavy congestion on the surrounding roadways:

Cars coming from the Kennedy Expressway will exit at Ohio St before using Orleans St and Grand Ave before reaching the casino. The CoD expressed concern that traffic would form along Orleans St because it’s only a one-lane road. Bally’s responded by citing an ongoing traffic study it’s heading up to ensure this is the safest way to go. Casino reps also believe the current plan will avoid heavy traffic along Chicago Ave. and Halsted St.

The CoD questioned the possibility of remote parking to avoid high traffic on the roadways surrounding Bally’s.

Essentially, Bally’s argues that many casino visitors will drive to the casino. The CoD believes more guests will use public transportation to get there.

CoD expressed concern for pedestrian experience around Bally’s

The current architectural plans include:

  • A 500-foot-tall hotel tower along Chicago Ave.
  • A 3,000-seat theater to the south.
  • The casino will be between the two buildings.

The casino will occupy multiple blocks and plans to have no windows for about 1,000 feet along Jefferson St. The CoD believe this would make for an unpleasant pedestrian experience due to the amount of space Bally’s buildings will take up.

Bally’s reps said regulations require the casino to be in a contained area with few entrances that can be secured. Because of the railroad tracks from Union Pacific, the casino campus was forced to be lengthy in size to achieve Bally’s desired square footage for the buildings.

The CoD asked Bally’s to explore the possibility of putting the casino floor on the second story of the casino, which would free up the ground level for more parking areas as well as retail and commercial spaces. This could also eliminate the necessity of a parking structure to the west of the casino’s campus.

Bally’s reps responded by saying they will consider this possibility, though the commercial space mentioned by the CoD isn’t currently part of Bally’s design plan.

A long stretch of the casino along Jefferson St has no windows. The CoD presented the idea of having the windowless stretch go along the side of the casino facing the river. The CoD believes this would maintain a peaceful atmosphere along the water.

CoD has issues with Bally’s public plaza

Bally’s plans to build a public plaza to serve as a drop off point and social area for casino guests. The area would be located at the corner of Jefferson St and Chicago Ave.

The CoD doesn’t see the plaza as being a space the public would visit and spend time. It is in an area that’s inconvenient for pedestrians to reach. So the advisory board questioned the ability to build the hotel tower in a different area. It believes this could allow for the plaza to be larger and more accessible for pedestrians.

Bally’s reps showed an openness to moving the location of the tower and plaza. Key to moving would be if it would have a positive impact on the public plaza. Bally’s flexibility on moving the tower led to further questions. Notably, whether Bally’s would alter other areas of the blueprint. The CoD wants Bally’s to consider altering the long L-shaped casino that will stretch for 1,000 feet along the riverfront.

Bally’s reps replied by saying the answer isn’t a simple yes or no at this point. The shape of the Bally’s campus makes rearranging plans difficult, Bally’s said.

Photo by Courtesy Bally’s
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Matt Boecker

Matt Boecker is a 2020 graduate of Northern Illinois University hailing from Chicago. Boecker specializes in coverage of sports betting and legalization. Former teammates and coworkers describe him as a nice guy who tries hard and loves the game.

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