Bally’s Chicago rebounds with record revenue in May

by Admin
Bally's Chicago rebounds with record revenue in May

May was a big bounceback month at Bally’s Chicago, which generated a record $11.7 million in adjusted gross receipts and also hit new highs in admissions, according to data released Friday by the Illinois Gaming Board.

The gaming revenue represented a 13% increase from April, when Bally’s saw its first month-over-month decline since the temporary casino opened at Medinah Temple in September.

Bally’s Chicago admissions were up 5% for May to nearly 119,000 visitors, ranking second behind Rivers Casino Des Plaines, which remains the busiest and top revenue-generating casino in the state, according to the monthly data.

But the numbers still fall short of city projections, with long-term growth hinging on the planned permanent casino at the soon-to-be demolished Freedom Center printing plant site in River West.

Mark Wong, vice president and general manager of Bally’s Chicago, said in a news release increased membership in the casino’s loyalty program contributed to the record pace “as we grow closer to breaking ground on our permanent location.”

Revenue was up 5% to nearly $144 million in May at the state’s 15 casinos, with more than a million visitors for the month, according to Gaming Board data.

Through the first five months of 2024, Bally’s Chicago generated $52.4 million in adjusted gross receipts and more than $5.5 million in local tax revenue at its temporary River North casino, according to Gaming Board data.

The city has projected Bally’s to generate $243 million in adjusted gross receipts and $35 million in local gaming taxes this year.

Rhode Island-based Bally’s is continuing to navigate both a March buyout offer from its largest shareholder and an $800 million funding gap to build its planned $1.7 billion permanent Chicago casino at the Tribune’s 30-acre Freedom Center printing plant site.

In March, New York hedge fund Standard General, which owns 23% of Bally’s, submitted an offer to buy out the rest of the stockholders at $15 per share, valuing the company at about $648 million. The Bally’s board formed a special committee and retained Macquarie Capital as its financial adviser to evaluate the offer and explore strategic alternatives.

Bally’s did not provide any updates on the status of the buyout offer Friday.

Both the city and Bally’s are banking on the permanent casino complex, which would include an exhibition hall, a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, 10 restaurants and 4,000 gaming positions — by far the state’s largest — to meet ambitious long-term financial goals.

Last year, Bally’s agreed to pay Tribune Publishing, owners of the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, $150 million to vacate the Freedom Center by July 5 to break ground on the new casino complex, which is slated to open in September 2026.

A Union Pacific 815, pulls into the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center with the final delivery of newsprint on April 26, 2024. (Vincent Alban/Chicago Tribune)

“We will take occupancy of the property in early July and will begin preparing the site for demolition,” Wong said in an email Friday. “Our construction timetable is on track to open the permanent Bally’s Chicago Casino in September 2026.”

The Tribune, for its part, is on schedule, as the Freedom Center wraps up its 43-year run as the largest newspaper printing plant in North America. Production has already moved to the former Daily Herald facility in Schaumburg, which Tribune purchased last year for an undisclosed price.

The Chicago Tribune shifted over to Schaumburg with the May 20th edition and the final press run at Freedom Center took place on Friday, May 31, with the printing of weekly financial publication Barron’s.

Roy Carlson, a 34-year Chicago Tribune veteran whose role as operations manager at Freedom Center is shifting to Schaumburg as well, said the move to the northwest suburbs has gone relatively well, and that the former plant’s presses will soon shut down for good.

“We still have three presses that are sitting live, just in case we have a big hiccup in Schaumburg, but it doesn’t look likely,” Carlson said. “So this coming Sunday night, we officially will turn off all the power at all our presses.”

The Chicago Tribune newsroom also vacated the Freedom Center on May 31, with plans to move into a 3,700-square-foot space in the historic Brooks Building at 223 W. Jackson Blvd. in the Loop by July 1.

Carlson, who is overseeing a skeleton crew closing down the Freedom Center, said the Tribune will likely need up to its contractual July 5 exit date to get everything cleared out, including substantial archives, some of which are being shared with Preservation Chicago for safekeeping.

Tribune completed an auction last month for everything from printing equipment, dump trucks and forklifts to historical newspapers and press plates in a Freedom Center final liquidation. There were no buyers, however, for the two giant Chicago Tribune exterior signs on the north and south sides of the building.

Long a landmark for drivers on the Kennedy feeder ramp bridges at Ohio and Ontario, the iconic southern sign alone measured more than 80 feet by 12 feet, according to Carlson.

“I think they would have sold, but it’s too hard to get them down,” Carlson said. “You need a crane in order to get them down, and it’s probably cost prohibitive for everyone.”

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