Bally’s River West Casino may be the worst choice ever

(Above) Rendering of Bally’s casino project along the North Fork of the Chicago River in Chicago and Halsted. Image courtesy of Bally’s/Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

Experts say Bally’s choice of site at the nearly impassable corner of Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street is probably the worst possible location for a thriving and lucrative casino to lift the city out of the pension debacle.

23-May-22 – Some pundits call Bally’s River West – the high-profile site of Chicago’s $1.6 billion gambling extravaganza – Mayor Lori Lightfootcasino for dummies”.

As the city drowns in $47 billion in pension fund debt, Mayor Lightfoot is in desperate need of gambling tax money. The proposed Bally Casino is expected to pump $200 million a year into city coffers when it opens in the first quarter of 2026. Bally’s proposal also promises to use union labor and give the city An additional $4 million per year in supplemental funds.

Bally also plans to open a temporary casino in the Medinah Temple building (left) at 600 North Wabash Avenue in the third quarter of 2023. It’s a crazy idea due to River North traffic congestion.

“Bally bought the deal with an initial bribe of $40 million,” observed Mr. Zack, a veteran professional player. “Chicago & Halsted’s site is the worst possible place they could put it.”

This busy intersection is surrounded by the Chicago River, bridges, and Metra railroad tracks — not an ideal site for a mega development. Traffic congestion on Chicago Avenue west of Halsted Street also includes a steady stream of trucks from a Goose Island cement plant.

The Chicago Tribune’s 30-acre Freedom Center printing plant at 777 West Chicago Avenue currently occupies the proposed casino location along with the newspaper’s newsroom.

Mr. Zak, nicknamed dog dad due to his great love for dogs, resides in Old Town just a few blocks from Bally’s proposed site at River West. He regularly visits the Hard Rock Casino in Gary, Indiana to gamble.

“Hard Rock Casino makes $1 million in profit a day,” said Mr. Zak, who is friends with the casino’s management due to his status as a high-stakes gambler. “Assuming Bally could earn a similar daily profit when open and fully operational, they robbed the deal for just $40 million – or 40 days of casino action. Mayor Lightfoot could easily have demanded a bribe of 100 million dollars in advance.

Lightfoot spun his roulette while trying to choose between five proposals for launching a giant corporate casino in Chicago. The proposals came after Springfield lawmakers changed the tax structure of casinos and handed over a stack of chips to the gambling industry.

However, Mr. Zak – and this writer – agree that the only logical starter casino site is Lakeside Center – the original McCormick Place East – for a “pop-up” downtown instant casino that could bring in millions of dollars. dollars to gambling taxes for the city in late 2022.

Lakeside Center (right), which looks a lot like an aircraft carrier, is anchored on the shore overlooking Lake Michigan. Building experts say the Lakeside Center was designed and wired decades ago for a future casino, and there’s plenty of parking nearby.

Choose Chicago

Before the pandemic, the building was only used about 10 to 20 times a year for gatherings — activities that could easily be moved to McCormick sites to the west.

In 2020, some $15 million in renovations were pumped into Lakeside Center to convert it into an emergency hospital that can accommodate up to 2,500 COVID-19 patients.

Walsh Construction

Union tradesmen worked around the clock to install 100 new water pipes, wire 1,000 electrical outlets and more than 100 data lines to power an electronic records system to accept and monitor patients.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid for the work, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers supervised construction. So these funds were really a gift from Uncle Sam.

The benefits of high-tech construction, along with other cosmetic upgrades, could create hundreds of jobs, and the work could create an instant play casino.

Move through 1,000 slots and video poker machines, add 200 staffed gaming tables, add a few restaurants and bars, and Mayor Lightfoot’s cash register could start operating. ka-ching end of 2022.

The 50-year-old and rarely used Lakeside Center has 583,000 square feet of exhibit space. It is located near 2,900 hotel rooms, designed for high-traffic events, and would help attract thousands of enthusiastic players.

However, for Lakeside Center to operate – as a common-sense temporary casino – a two-year lease would need to be drafted between Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the managers of McCormick Place and Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming. The company is run by the Chicago real estate developer Neil Bluhmwhich has four casinos, including Rivers Casino Des Plaines, the most profitable venue in Illinois.

Scott Bonmandirector of Chicago-based Farpoint Development, partner of Rush Street Gaming, said Lakeside Center – also known as Rivers Chicago in McCormick – is “a perfect complement to what already exists, infrastructure, parking and access”.

And there are no traffic problems because Lakeside Center is conveniently located on Lake Shore Drive.

Mr. Zak and many aldermen including 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkinsthink the best site for the construction of the new permanent casino is The 78a nearly vacant 62-acre mega-development site on the Chicago River in the South Loop.

Rush Street Gaming has also worked with master developer Related Midwest on their new-build casino project called Rivers 78 Gaming (right) on The 78 site.

Rush Street Gaming

“Going forward, any visionary urban planner will be able to see that the 78 site is the best choice for the location of the new casino for decades to come,” Mr. Zak said.

Whether you like it or not, casino gambling is becoming a national sport in America. Commercial casinos in the United States earned more than $5.3 billion from players in March 2022, the best monthly take ever. The previous peak month was July 2021, when the take was $4.92 billion. The figures do not include tribal casinos, which report their revenues separately and are expected to show similar results.

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