GAMBLING

Bally’s Chicago Underwhelms, Falls Far Short of Projections

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Posted on: January 10, 2024, 09:44h. 

Last updated on: January 10, 2024, 09:58h.

Bally’s Chicago, located inside the historic Medinah Temple, is on damage control. That’s after the temporary casino failed to come anywhere near its preopening revenue projections.

Bally's Chicago gaming revenue
There was much fanfare when Bally’s opened its temporary casino in Chicago last September. However, after nearly four months in operation, the casino has failed to realize preopening gaming revenue forecasts. (Image: Getty)

Bally’s Chicago opened on September 9 with 800 slot machines and 56 live dealer table games. The temporary 34,000-square-foot gaming facility is supposed to help bankroll the Rhode Island-based gaming operator’s construction of its permanent $1.7 billion resort casino at the Freedom Center.

The temporary casino was authorized by state and city officials also in part to immediately inject gaming tax money into Chicago’s nearly insolvent police and firefighter pension fund.

When then-Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) approved the Bally’s bid, her office projected that the temporary casino would generate approximately $12.8 million in gaming tax proceeds for the city in 2023. The tax projection assumed Bally’s would win $102.5 million in 2023, with $61.5 million from slots, $40 million from tables, and $1 million from sports betting.

Per revenue reports released by the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) on Wednesday, Bally’s Chicago is revealed to be severely underperforming.

Lackluster Start

According to the IGB, Bally’s Chicago generated gross gaming revenue (GGR) between September through December of just $30.4 million, a far cry from Lightfoot’s $102.5 million projection. The city’s gaming tax share amounted to a little more than $3.1 million — $9.7 million less than forecast.

Bally’s Chicago officials say unease is unwarranted. The temporary casino opened later than expected because of regulatory delays, they claim, and the property is still ramping up its marketing efforts to become part of the Windy City landscape.

Bally’s continues to build its relationship with Chicago gaming customers by offering our guests new and convenient ways to visit the property,” said Bally’s Chicago General Manager Mark Wong. “We’ve added free parking, new promotions, and expanded hours to meet customers’ expectations.”

Those efforts, which additionally include a controversial shuttle service between the casino and Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, resulted in the casino experiencing its best month to date in December. It counted nearly 100K admissions during the 31 days, and won more than $8.5 million from gamblers. The daily average of roughly 3,220 visitors represents a considerable uptick on the 2,681 daily patrons the casino reported in October, its first full month in business.

Bally’s last year delivered Chicago a one-time upfront payment of $40 million to secure the city’s integrated resort license. Those funds provided an immediate pension benefit for the first responders.

Lofty Projections

Despite December being a strong month for Bally’s Chicago, the temporary facility has lofty revenue targets in the years ahead.

In 2024, city officials expect the casino to win $242.7 million and deliver the city $34.4 million in gaming taxes. The revenue projection grows to $253.6 million in 2025, and to $638.6 million in 2026, when the permanent resort is expected to open.

There are many concerns about whether Bally’s has the financial wherewithal to bring the $1.7 billion project to reality. Bally’s is also reportedly facing a federal investigation into how it beat out other casino bidders for the Chicago gaming license.

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