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Chicago residents could soon own a piece of the city's first casino

Bally's plans to sell 25% of its shares to investors, including "everyday Chicagoans."
Chicago residents could soon own a piece of the city's first casino
Posted at 7:49 AM, May 23, 2023

Some Chicago residents may soon hold the cards — or at least some of them.

Bally's, which is building the city's first casino, has filed paperwork for a plan to sell 25% of its shares to "everyday Chicagoans" in a highly unusual move.

Because details are being negotiated with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bally's declined to comment about the specifics of the plan, like how much it would cost to buy in.

But on its website, the company says investors will include "philanthropists, business owners, sports stars, celebrities and everyday Chicagoans from the Black and Latino communities as well as other ethnic and gender representation."

Some Chicago residents, like Suyash Agrawal, tell Scripps News they like the idea but remain suspicious.

"I take a somewhat skeptical view that the promise of enabling residents to actually have a meaningful stake in a way that really promotes equity will be realized," Agrawal said.

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Others dread having a casino in their neck of the woods.

"I'm not happy. I live two blocks from here. Let's discuss parking, 24 hours a day," said Lisa Greenspon, who added that she's afraid the 24/7 casino will make her neighborhood less safe.

Happy or not, the casino has already been approved.

The ownership offer to Chicago residents, including minorities, is unusual in the industry. But it was one reason former Mayor Lori Lightfoot backed Bally's proposal. Another reason was its potential economic impact.

Last year, Lightfood said, "I want those lines of Illinois license plates that are queued up going to casinos in Indiana to be coming right here."

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Bally's executives tell Scripps News the casino will generate thousands of jobs and will be a destination for people of all ages.

"It will draw locals and tourists both alike," said Joyen Vakil, Bally's senior vice president of design and development.

If all goes according to plan, the riverfront casino complex will open in 2026. The $1.7 billion project will include a 500-room hotel along with 10 restaurants and bars. 

According to Vakil, it will be one-of-a-kind. 

"It is in a very urban setting, which is very unusual when it comes to a casino development of this size and scale," he said.

For those who don't want to wait three years, Bally's is opening a temporary casino as soon as this summer in the Medinah Temple, a historic downtown building.

So buckle up, Chicago, and get ready to roll the dice.

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