The Chicago Plan Commission and Illinois Gaming Board, known as Illinois regulators, are still assessing Bally’s entire casino proposal, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Bally’s Chicago, which the company presented in August. However, on Thursday, February 9, they gave the go-ahead, which means licenses for an interim gambling hall at Medinah Temple.
Technically, approval was given to Medinah Building LLC, the company responsible for the physical structure of the site, and Medinah Holdings LLC, which is responsible for the land on which the gambling hall will be constructed.
The gambling hall would be supervised and managed by Bally until a lasting casino is constructed west of the Chicago River.
Approval of initial vendor licenses:
State regulators voted unanimously to approve initial vendor licenses for the politically connected owner of the significant Medinah Temple at 600 N. Wabash Ave., which is required to serve as Bally’s interim casino for at least 2 years while the Rhode Island-based company constructs its lasting facility at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.
The regulator can’t quickly make a final decision regarding a permanent Chicago casino due to an insufficient number of members, though city officials hope to have the casino up and running by summer.
In this regard, Mayor Lightfoot said: “I want the temporary casino to open and start generating revenue — eventually up to $200 million a year — for the city’s depleted police and firefighter pension funds by early this summer.
“But that would seemingly require an expedited timeline from the chronically understaffed Gaming Board. The agency has taken at least a year to vet each of the five other new casinos that were authorized under a massive statewide gambling expansion signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019.”
Marcus Fruchter, board administrator, added: “Just as we did with those applicants, the IGB is evaluating, vetting and investigating the Bally’s Chicago casino application in an ethical, efficient, independent and thorough manner that satisfies our statutory obligations and safeguards public trust and confidence.
“My agency ’s investigation is moving forward and that Bally’s is cooperating with IGB staff.”
However, he wouldn’t mention when a decision would be made on the “preliminary suitability” of the proposed Chicago casino. But it is known that before making an official decision, a public presentation will have to be held, which will allow the company to start preparing the store.
Opponents of the Mayor’s plan:
Last spring, Mayor Lightfoot suddenly named Bally’s as the casino operator to represent her from among the three finalists without any advice or consultation from the Chicago City Council committee that was apparently called in to handle all matters about long-desired gambling mecca.
However, there’s opposition to the mayor’s plan.
The opponent is River North Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who projected an increase in crime and traffic near the temporary casino at Medinah, which he also labeled an “eleventh-hour switcheroo.”
Bally officials have said in public meetings that “they initially wanted to build their temporary casino near the permanent location at the site of the Chicago Tribune printing plant.”
However, Mayor Lightfoot convinced them to use the Medina Temple site instead of the original location, according to sources.
In this regard, Lightfoot’s office said: “We aren’t involved in the Medinah site selection.”
They also supported Bally’s traffic and public safety plans while advertising a $40 million loan the company made to the city after getting City Council approval.
Both companies are managed by Friedman Properties. Its President and CEO is Albert Friedman, a developer and permanent client of previous Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s law firm, which filed property tax appeals for many of Friedman’s properties.
“The company has acquired almost $77.000 in rent-related payments since 2019 as the landlord for the officies of Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign fund,” according to the Sun-Times.