Bally’s Temporary Chicago Casino Approved For Supplier Licenses

Chicago skyline

The first in-person Illinois Gaming Board meeting in more than three years was a relatively low-key affair on Thursday, with the biggest news being Medinah Building and Medinah Holdings being unanimously approved for casino supplier licenses connected to Bally’s temporary casino in downtown Chicago.

Both licensees are connected to Medinah Temple, where Bally’s would offer casino gaming on a temporary basis if awarded a license by the IGB. The state agency continues to be in the “investigative” phase of reviewing the application Bally’s submitted last August for its proposed $1.8 billion venue to be built in the nearby River West neighborhood of the city. The casino is expected to generate $800 million in annual revenue at full maturity, which would then provide the city with $200 million in tax receipts to go toward the police and fire pensions.

The downtown Chicago casino is the slowest to progress among the six locations awarded new casino licenses in the 2019 gaming expansion bill that also legalized sports wagering in Illinois, though the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted all potential timelines. It also had an extra hurdle to overcome in the form of the Chicago bidding process, as Bally’s beat out proposals from Rush Street Gaming and Hard Rock.

Only one location — Rockford — is currently accepting bets through Hard Rock‘s temporary casino, though Danville, Williamson County, Waukegan, and suburban Cook County locations have all broken ground for their respective venues.

Meanwhile, Wind Creek going bigger

With it being the first in-person IGB meeting since January 2020, IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter provided a refresher on the timeline for the state agency when it reviews an application for a casino license, namely that there are no hard deadlines to reach key points. With Bally’s still in the investigative phase, that process has to be completed before the company would then make a public presentation to the board to determine preliminary suitability — a status the other five new venues have, along with Hawthorne Race Course and Fairmount Park as the state’s two horse racing tracks pursue racino plans.

Fruchter also reminded those in attendance and following the livestream that a preliminary finding deeming an entity suitable does not guarantee a license, as the IGB must then conduct an assessment of operations and oversee a practice gaming session before deciding if it would approve a licensee to receive a temporary operating permit or license that would allow a venue to offer casino gaming.

Wind Creek, which is in the process of constructing a casino in suburban Cook County straddling Homewood and East Hazel Crest, came to the IGB with a Rule 230(d) request, which covers changing the scope of its plans. Wind Creek COO Brent Pinkston appeared in person to inform the board of plans to expand the capacity of the entertainment venue for the proposed casino, which is slated to open in the first quarter of 2024.

Pinkston noted that the expansion puts the overall investment in the project over $500 million and offered a preliminary estimate to the IGB that it would provide an additional 25 jobs on top of the 800 originally projected with the 70,000-square-foot casino. Wind Creek broke ground for the venue last June and opted to bypass opening a temporary casino in order to have the full 1,400 gaming positions available in quicker fashion. The hotel that would accompany the casino is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Fruchter retaining expanded powers from pandemic

The board also unanimously approved a resolution that allows the IGB administrator to retain expanded powers granted to the position in June 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The procedural move decouples those powers from the state’s public health emergency, which is set to end May 11 according to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The resolution would have to be renewed on an annual basis as it is good through the first scheduled IGB meeting in the following calendar year.

IGB Chairman Charles Schmadeke lauded Fruchter for his efforts throughout the pandemic and the board in crafting the resoultion, noting, “I encouraged the staff to look into our delegation because I think it has worked very well — it makes this body more effective, more efficient without any detriment to either the regulated industry or the citizens of the state of Illinois.”

Among the expanded powers granted to Fruchter that have been extended include his ability to renew licenses to individuals and entities to existing license-holders in casino gaming, sports wagering, and video gaming, and authorizes finding of entities of preliminary suitability to hold practice gaming sessions and issue a temporary operating permit after a successful final practice gaming session. Fruchter can also approve the request to withdraw applications for owners’ and suppliers’ licenses and initiate disciplinary hearings.

Wrapping up 2022 casino and VGT numbers

The state’s 11 casinos generated $114.4 million in revenue for December, with Rivers Casino in Des Plaines leading the way with $47.2 million in adjusted revenue. Casino gaming, excluding sports wagering, generated more than $1.3 billion in operator revenue for the 2022 calendar year, with the state receiving $290 million in tax receipts while another $76.5 million went to local municipalities.

Though not announced at the meeting, casino revenue for January totaled $112.6 million, with Rivers accounting for more than 40% of that total with $45.6 million. State taxes for the month were $12.9 million.

Video gaming terminals (VGTs) generated $233.6 million for the final month of 2022, lifting the Net Terminal Income for the year to $2.7 billion. State coffers had an inflow of $786 million in tax revenue from VGT play in 2022, with local municipalities receiving an additional $135.5 million. It will be interesting to see how state lawmakers consider the internet casino gaming bill filed Wednesday by Sen. Cristina Castro given the 45,000 VGTs in operation spanning more than 8,000 locations statewide provide a substantial amount of tax revenue and would be notably impacted with the availability of iCasino.

Photo: Getty Images

Author: Ryan Gonzales