An Illinois Casino Expansion Is Underway, But Is It Raising Red Flags With Wall Street?

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on July 20, 2022 - Last Updated on July 26, 2022
Illinois casino plans include Bally's Chicago.

Casino expansion is not new, especially in states like Illinois, where multiple properties are developing. But from a Wall Street perspective, the amount of debt operators are willing to take on could be a cause for concern. As the US casino industry grows, so will the number of credit agencies keeping tabs on the projects. 

Wall Street nervous about Bally’s debt

Bally’s Corporation is taking on massive debt by building a Chicago casino from the ground up. So much so that Fitch Ratings and S&P are not particularly fond of the company’s investment. 

“This is a really big project for a company that hasn’t built anything like this. There are lots of things that could go wrong at the cost side, with high inflation, zoning issues, any number of things,” said Crain’s Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz

In May, Bally’s beat out Rush Street Gaming and Hard Rock International for the opportunity to open Chicago’s first casino.

As it stands now, building a casino in Chicago’s River West neighborhood could cost upwards of $1.7 billion. On top of the billion-dollar cost, Bally’s already paid the city $40 million upfront and will pay $4 million annually to Chicago. 

This is the first from-the-ground-up casino project for Bally’s. The company has a record of purchasing existing properties that are essentially turnkey readyThe new Illinois casino won’t open until 2025; however, a temporary location will open sometime next year. The temporary site will be at the Medinah Temple, a former Bloomingdale’s department store. 

Bally’s is currently in the application process with the Illinois Gaming Board and must obtain a casino license before construction can begin. 

Other Illinois casino projects

Down in Southern Illinois, the Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort is beginning to take shape. Elite Casino Resorts owns majority ownership and will operate and manage the property.

In December, Elite CEO Dan Kehl said construction could take 14 months, with a grand opening slated for early 2023

“We specialize in bringing world-class properties to markets similar to this one.”

Mo Hayder, regional vice president for the property, said the casino is making significant progress. 

“Many exciting things are happening. The asphalt is down with the grand entrance to the facility and valet area taking shape. The hotel framing is going up and they’ve started the second level. Framing for the casino complex with spa and restaurants is in place and work has begun on the roof. Walls are starting to be enclosed and the road extension is close to completion.”

The casino is expected to create 1,100 construction jobs and 330 permanent jobs. Additionally, the property will house 650 slot machines, 14 table games and an entertainment venue. 

Other amenities include:

  • A 116-room hotel with full-service salon and spa
  • Multiple food outlets, including Ruthie’s Steak & Seafood restaurant
  • The Draft Day Elite Sportsbook
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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