Bally’s Chicago Officials Met With Community To Allay Fears

Written By Dave Briggs on December 6, 2022
Chicago River North residents have concerns about traffic, parking, safety and job opportunities at Bally's Medinah Temple temporary casino.

Recently, Bally’s officials had a meeting with community leaders in Chicago’s River North district. Their main objective was to assuage concerns regarding a temporary Illinois casino anticipated to open at the Medinah Temple in 2023. The residents’ concerns primarily revolve around traffic, parking, safety, and job opportunities for minorities.

Christopher Jewett, Bally’s vice president of corporate development, and Ameet Patel, the company’s senior vice president of regional operations, attended the two-hour meeting at the Voco hotel.

As reported by Melody Mercardo for Block Club Chicago, Stéphane Brahy, the president of the condo association for 55 East Erie, made a statement during public comments.

“It’s quite evident that the casino poses a disruptive influence in any community. After all, families and children reside here.”

Additionally, the St. James Cathedral is situated just a block away from the Medinah Temple, which is 110 years old. Rev. Lisa Hackney-James expressed her worries about the influx of casino patrons potentially causing parking issues for parishioners attending Sunday services at St. James.

“Hackney-James expressed concern in the Chicago Sun-Times about families with children who make the effort to come to church, questioning what guarantees they have that they won’t encounter an overcrowded parking situation,”

Bally’s says 5,000 area parking spaces more than enough

Tim Doron, Bally’s senior traffic consultant, stated that a report commissioned by the casino company found that around 5,000 spaces in nearby garages offer ample parking. The report also mentioned that there were more than enough spaces to accommodate the estimated 500 spots required during the casino’s peak operating hours.

Additionally, Doron presented how valet parking and ride-sharing would operate on the streets surrounding the Medinah Temple. The traffic report predicted that approximately four vehicles would arrive and another four vehicles would depart every minute during peak hours.

Brendan Reilly, the alderperson for Chicago’s 42nd Ward, had previously criticized Bally’s traffic report. He pointed out that the main issue was that Bally’s had funded the traffic study.

“In my opinion, this study is fundamentally flawed, excessively ambiguous, and evidently drafted with the sole aim of confirming a casino’s viability at Medinah Temple,” said Reilly. “I have reviewed countless traffic studies throughout my career, and I can say without a doubt that this one is weak and lacks the authenticity that an independent evaluation would’ve brought.”

Additionally, Reilly stated that the study’s estimation of bettors who will walk or use public transit is unrealistic.

“He stated that he doesn’t think anyone would be foolish enough to take the CTA or walk to a casino carrying cash. He also expressed his fundamental disagreement with the report’s numerous assumptions, believing that the new vehicle trips were grossly underestimated,” he said.

Police, Bally’s tout enhanced safety protocols

During the meeting at the Voco hotel, the team from Bally’s also attempted to alleviate residents’ worries about public safety. The casino group specifically stated that their “best-in-class safety initiatives” would encompass:

  • A single entryway to the casino
  • a round-the-clock video monitoring system
  • concealed weapons detection technology
  • private security

The Chicago Police Department plans to assign officers from the 18th District to patrol the exterior of the casino, according to First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter. Additionally, more license plate readers and street cameras will be installed in the vicinity of the casino.

“Carter stated, “We have taken every possible measure to work in partnership with Bally’s to guarantee public safety within and around the venue.”

Bally’s has committed to minority hiring

However, some residents who attended the meeting expressed their welcome for the casino and the jobs it will create.

The agreement Bally’s made with the city of Chicago in May pledges to uphold a 60% minority hiring quota and will establish a jobs program aimed at neighborhoods suffering from high unemployment and low income. The jobs program will also provide clear career advancement opportunities.

Officials from Bally’s announced at the recent community meeting that they would establish an employment and training center early next year. They also mentioned that a casino job fair would take place in late spring or early summer, followed by the opening of a temporary casino in June.

The temporary site will consist of three floors and will feature:

  • 800 slot machines
  • 50 gaming tables
  • A restaurant serving three meals, fast food outlets, and bars.

The temporary casino will be utilized for three years.

Permanent Illinois casino in River West expected by 2026

Significantly, Bally’s completed the purchase of the River West land for $200 million on Nov. 22, where it plans to construct its permanent Bally’s Chicago casino. Moreover, the casino will be built on the site of the Freedom Center printing plant, which currently prints the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers.

Plans specifically state that the permanent casino will be completed by 2026 and it will feature:

  • 3,400 slots
  • 170 table games
  • 10 places to eat and drink
  • A hotel tower featuring 500 rooms and a rooftop bar.
  • A broad public riverwalk featuring a water taxi stop.
  • An entertainment center of 65,000 square feet with a seating capacity of 3,000.
  • And an exhibition of 20,000 square feet, an outdoor venue for music, and an outdoor green space.
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs works as a managing editor and writer for Catena Media, where he specializes in covering the North American gambling industry. His focus is primarily on the casino, sports betting, horse racing, and poker sectors. Currently, he is reporting on the gaming sectors in Illinois and Canada.

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