All bets are ... ‘a little delayed’? Temporary Chicago casino now expected to open in September

Bally’s executives initially aimed for a mid-August opening at the Medinah Temple. The corporation still needs the final green light from state gambling regulators.

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The Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave.

The Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave., where a casino is now expected to open in September.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Hold your bets on the opening date for Chicago’s first casino.

Bally’s executives said Thursday they expect their temporary gambling house at the historic Medinah Temple to open sometime in September, a few weeks later than initially suggested by leaders of the Rhode Island-based corporation.

Regulators at the Illinois Gaming Board gave an early thumbs-up to Bally’s mega-development in June, the first step en route to launching the makeshift Medinah casino for up to three years while the permanent, $1.7 billion structure is built at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

The board’s finding of “preliminary suitability” allowed Bally’s to start moving slots and table games into the temple at 600 N. Wabash Ave., but the company still has to clear a final set of hurdles, including a gaming test run, before Marcus Fruchter, the board’s adminstrator, issues the temporary operating permit that’ll mean all bets are on.

Bally’s chairman Soo Kim told the Sun-Times on June 15 that they were aiming to have gamblers inside Medinah within eight weeks, or by the second week of August.

Kim pushed that timeline back a bit during a talk at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual convention last month, when he said, “IGB be willing, I would say around, at the end of August.”

“It’s done,” Kim said during the Rainbow PUSH Business Breakfast July 18. “We’ve done our work, and now the regulators are going in and making sure everything works the way they want it to work, so the doors should be opening soon.”

But during a quarterly earnings call Thursday morning, Bally’s CEO Robeson Reeves told investors the Medinah “project remains on schedule for a September opening.”

Later in the presentation, Bally’s chief financial officer Marcus Glover acknowledged “obviously we’re, I think, a little delayed from what we communicated to you last time on opening.” In May, executives said the goal was “late summer.”

All along the way, Bally’s spokeswoman Mary Datcher has maintained a softer timeline, saying they hoped to fire up the lights at Medinah by “the end of summer.”

Gaming board spokeswoman Beth Kaufman said Thursday the agency “continues to work with Bally’s Chicago to open the temporary casino at Medinah Temple in an ethical, compliant and efficient manner.”

Datcher said Bally’s is “preparing for testing dates.”

Any opening date will be well beyond the target set by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who wanted the city to start funneling casino tax revenue to its nearly insolvent police and firefighter pension funds by June.

City officials are banking on up to $55 million in annual tax revenue from Medinah, which will house about 750 slot machines and 50 table games.

They’re aiming for $200 million per year from the permanent casino, a 3,400-slot behemoth at the River West site of the Chicago Tribune printing plant.

Construction isn’t expected to begin until at least next July, when the newspaper is booted from the property. Bally’s expects to open the permanent casino in 2026.

“We remain confident in the significant pent up consumer demand for this project and eagerly anticipate generating results,” Reeves said.

Rendering of the proposed Bally’s casino in the River West neighborhood.

Rendering of the proposed Bally’s casino in the River West neighborhood.

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