Bally’s Finalizes Its Chicago Casino Land Purchase

Written By Russ Mitchell on November 22, 2022
The $200 million Bally's Chicago casino land purchase is a done deal, the gaming and hospitality corporation announced on Monday.

It’s a done deal. Bally’s Corporation on Monday confirmed that it officially closed on its 30-acre, $200 million land purchase in Chicago.

Bally’s will build the future of casinos in Illinois on River West property owned by the Chicago Tribune’s owners — Nexstar Media Group out of Dallas. The Freedom Center property is located at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

The gaming corporation technically won’t hold onto its property for long. Bally’s will sell the land, then lease it back, according to Monday’s announcement. A lease, instead of a deed, frees up capital to pay for the massive casino project.

Put another way, the “ground lease” allows Bally’s to develop its $1.7 billion casino at Freedom Center, even though it won’t own the property.

“We are excited to be partnering with one of Chicago’s leading real estate private equity firms as we progress with building our $1.7 billion flagship property in the Chicago market,” Bally’s chairman Soo Kim said in Monday’s announcement. “We continue to demonstrate our commitment to delivering a world-class entertainment facility that supports Chicago’s economy and community.”

Millions spent ahead of the Chicago casino land purchase

Bally’s has also made a $40 million up-front payment to land a casino license ahead of other suitors.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot used money from the Bally’s bid to avoid a pre-election property tax increase. The money bolstered the city’s police and fire pension fund, too. The Chicago City Council also granted its approval with a 41-7 vote.

Bally’s Chicago Casino won’t be ready for customers until 2026, but the finished project will make a splash on the riverfront. Plans call for:

  • 3,400 slots
  • 170 table games
  • 10 food and beverage venues
  • a 500-room hotel tower with a rooftop bar
  • an expansive public riverwalk with a water taxi stop
  • a 3,000-seat, 65,000-square-foot entertainment center
  • and a 20,000-square-foot exhibition, outdoor music venue, and outdoor green space.

Printing press and poker together … maybe

The Bally’s Chicago casino land purchase could literally stop the presses in the Windy City.

Freedom Center served as a printing hub for the Chicago Tribune, NY Times and Wall Street Journal among others over the past 41 years.

Robert Channick of the Tribune reports that his employers have “exercised an option to extend its printing plant lease at Freedom Center, which is set to expire in June 2023, for another 10 years.”

That is possible. Printing can continue in the shadow of the $1.7 billion casino project because the owners have 30 acres to work with.

Channick told his readers Bally’s has the right to move Tribune operations off the land as well. If that happens, Nexstar could move printing operations to an idled plant in Milwaukee.

Bally’s temporary Chicago casino plans

If everything goes according to plan, a temporary Chicago casino at Medinah Temple can start taking wagers in June 2023. The building can stay open for up to three years.

Medinah Temple is a designated Chicago landmark at 600 N. Wabash Ave. in the River North district.

It will house about 800 gaming positions, plus food and drink options.

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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in the Upper Midwest since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in Iowa. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing casino and sportsbook industry in Illinois.

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