Bally's gets partial approval for temporary Medinah Temple casino

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Thursday, June 15, 2023
Temporary casino at Medinah Temple gets approval
Bally's got approval Thursday for a temporary Chicago casino at River North's Medinah Temple.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Bally's got the green light Thursday to begin opening a temporary casino inside the old Medinah Temple in River North.

The Illinois Gaming Board approved a proposal at its regular meeting Thursday. The casino could open at Medinah Temple next month.

RELATED: Bally's releases new renderings of Chicago casino complex in River West

It would operate there until a permanent casino is built in River West at the site of the former Chicago Tribune printing plant.

The $1.7 billion development will boast a casino, restaurants, a spa and a hotel tower that will have a shimmering facade to reflect the water on the river.

SEE ALSO: Plan for temporary Chicago casino at Medinah Temple lacks safety details, River North alderman says

The temporary casino is already well on its way to being physically ready to open with plenty of renovations inside. The approval by the gaming board mean's Bally's can begin moving in the slot machines and gaming tables with the hope of opening up by the end of the summer.

Once they do their dry runs with the equipment and employees, they must get inspected and approved by the gaming board before they can finally open.

The temporary casino will be a much smaller scale version of the permanent facility Bally's hopes to one day get approval for and open in Chicago.

But the work on the temporary casino at the site of the iconic Medina Temple is for the most part completed, Bally's chairman said.

"But we cannot move forward, and, you know, we've all bought all the tables and the machines, but they're under wraps in the warehouse. So now with this temporary, as I mean, sorry, this preliminary finding of suitability, now we can bring those machines out, install them and really get started," Soo Kim said.

Bally's said the temporary casino could be open by the end of the summer. It will have 750 slots and 50 table games in the 134,000-square-foot facility.

But for River North residents, the casino will generate something less desirable: congestion and more.

Brian Hopkins' ward is right next-door.

"They still haven't addressed the concerns for the community, which primarily revolve around crime, traffic congestion, parking. Those issues remain unresolved," the 2nd Ward alderman said. "They need to do a better job addressing the parking and the traffic flow. That's clearly something that there's room for improvement on again; the kind of numbers that this casino needs to generate for it to be successful for Bally's automatically means an increase in traffic and congestion and security concerns in this neighborhood."

"There's going to be change that comes along, and so we have to manage that change and do the best that we can with it," said John Bosca, president of the Neighbors of River West.

But the Medina facility will bring with it 700 jobs and also revenue that Chicago will use to help pay for pensions, two things supporters say the city really needs right now.

"Well, the temporary casino is not necessarily going to help the West Loop, but what the casino is going to do for the city and for all this surrounding neighborhoods is really jobs. It's going to filter for the south. It's going to filter for the north," said Julie Darling, with the West Loop Community Organization. "They've been planning meticulously, I was fortunate enough to receive a tour of the temporary casino. It's beautiful. It's high-tech, and I think it's going to be a great addition for the neighborhood."

Kim is hoping residents will keep an open mind.

"Everyone should just judge for themselves. You know, don't take someone else's word for you. Come on back, and then I think you'll like it," he said.

The permanent casino still has more hurdles, but if it gets the necessary approval, Kim hopes that will open in the second half of 2026.