Bally's Could Face Federal Investigation over Chicago Casino

Listen to this news articleLISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE:

Bally's new casino in Chicago, Illinois, is off to a rough start. In addition to not producing the revenue local leaders expected, federal and state authorities have been actively investigating the manner in which Bally's secured its casino license.

Preferential Treatment

To initiate the probe, the US Attorney's Office will scrutinize the grievances lodged by unsuccessful gaming operators who partook in – and lost – the casino licensing process. Alderman Brian Hopkins, a vocal critic of former mayor Lori Lightfoot and the casino system, has lent his support to the ongoing federal investigation.

Simultaneously, it has been brought to light that a parallel inquiry is underway under the guidance of Deborah Witzburg, the Inspector General of Chicago. Adhering to the established protocol, Witzburg refrained from making any statements regarding the matter, while the US Attorney's Office also remains quiet.

Joanna Klonsky, a spokesperson for former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, along with Samir Mayekar, who led the casino bidding initiative for the mayor and who formerly held the position of deputy mayor, have both denied having any knowledge of an ongoing investigation.

Bally's, based in Rhode Island, has also stated that it is not aware of any such investigation happening. The investigation was purportedly initiated a couple of months ago without informing the operator or the mayor's office.

Initially, Bally's encountered opposition when it gained permission to modify the conditions of its financial arrangement with certain investors. This was achieved by incorporating a stipulation that facilitated the acquisition of minor stock shares at an undisclosed price following the casino's establishment.

Furthermore, reports have emerged underscoring variations in fees imposed on diverse suppliers. There are also rumors that allegedly reveal potential conflicts of interest in relation to local authorities who are actively scrutinizing the casino's financial prospects.

Bally's Enters Chicago

In September, Bally's inaugurated a temporary casino within the historic Medina Temple, indicating imminent development of a permanent establishment set to open its doors in late 2026. Despite various counterarguments, the city council gave its consent to the casino with an overwhelming majority of 39-5. Valued at $1.7 billion, the permanent casino aims to alleviate the burden of unpaid pensions on elderly citizens.

For years, Chicago authorities had been considering the concept of establishing a casino, and a few local leaders perceived it as a promising means of saving money. However, it wasn't until 2020 that any real progress was made. Bally's overcame the challenges and found enough support to push its project to the front.

The journey for the gaming company entrusted with constructing Chicago's inaugural casino was far from simple. Skeptics raised concerns about transparency during the selection process and expressed doubts regarding Bally's capability to accomplish the project successfully.