Sep 5, 2023 - News

Bally's temporary Medinah Temple casino could open this weekend

The temporary Bally's Casino at the Medinah Temple in River North. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

The temporary Bally's casino at Medinah Temple in River North could open as soon as Saturday.

Why it matters: The site will offer a test run for the city's first casino ahead of the permanent $1.7 billion gaming multiplex coming to River West in 2026.

Driving the news: Bally's officials say the temporary casino is ready to welcome the public this weekend if its 750 slot machines and gambling tables pass inspections by the Illinois Gaming Board, which are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

  • Axios and other media outlets got a private tour of the facility. Here's what to expect:

Details: The casino retains many of the features of Medinah Temple's original Moorish architecture, including the stained-glass windows and exposed dome. A mural by Chicago artist Shawn Michael Warren adorns the walls of the lower level and includes a nod to the annual Shrine Circus that was held at the temple through much of the 20th century.

  • There are two restaurants by Paul Kahan's restaurant group, One Off Hospitality, as well as a cafe.
  • Most of the slot machines are on the first floor, a mix of slots and card tables fills the second floor, and the third floor caters to "VIP guests." Officials declined to say what betting level was considered VIP.

By the numbers: Bally's has hired around 700 employees, about 300 of whom have received training on how to deal games. The company says Chicago residents are offered priority, but employees can live outside city limits.

Context: Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in May 2022 that Bally's would open the first-ever casino in Chicago, a feat her predecessors never accomplished due to opposition from state legislators.

  • The city promised that part of the projected $200 million annual revenue would be dedicated to the underfunded pensions for Chicago police and firefighters.
  • Both the temporary and permanent locations have faced opposition from nearby residents and Alderman Brendan Reilly, whose ward includes the temporary site.

What they're saying: Ameet Patel, a senior vice president for Bally's, tells Axios the idea to open the temporary casino "was to maximize the revenue for the city for the fire and police pension funds, making sure that revenue stream starts very quickly while we build the permanent one."

  • In a statement this week, Reilly reiterated that he is "vehemently opposed to the permanent and temporary casino locations," and he shared past statements asserting that the casino would be better situated elsewhere.
  • "The casino would have a positive impact on the creation of local jobs and amenities in neighborhood commercial corridors nearby," he said. "Downtown doesn't need that rare economic opportunity, but plenty of neighborhoods could surely use that boost."

What's next: If the casino is cleared to open Saturday, its hours will be determined by the Illinois Gaming Board, a Bally's spokesperson says.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more