Bally's Corporation is set to complete the acquisition of the Freedom Center printing property from its current owner, Nexstar Media Group, this month. The firm announced this during its third-quarter earnings call last week. Bally's will use the $200 million property to host its $1.74 billion proposed casino complex.
The company plans to sell its 30-acre land in River West and lease it back to acquire the money needed to build the proposed casino. According to the company's CFO, Robert Lavan, the company was focused on land sale-leaseback as it was a core part of the capital structure.
Bally's started the acquisition process last month. Nexstar Media Group barely possessed the property as it purchased Freedom Center in 2019 alongside Tribune Media.
Tribune Media already had the rights to develop the site for multi-use. It planned to build a hotel, thousands of residential units, and offices.
With Bally's taking over the land, the plan is not far from the original project. The casino developer proposes to build a resort with six restaurants, cafes, three bars and lounges, and a food hall.
Bally's will also build a 7,000-square-foot concert venue that can hold 3,000 guests. Meanwhile, the casino floor will host over 3,000 slot machines and 170 table games.
This casino will most probably launch in 2026. However, Bally's has proposed to open a temporary casino at the Medinah Temple before July 2023, before it completes building the permanent facility.
With the ongoing makeover in River West, local ecologists feel having Bally's project there has a positive potential. Upon completion, the first Chicago casino will create 6,000 permanent jobs. Moreover, it will generate $200 in tax revenue for Chicago.
Chicago Chose Bally's Project
Chicago issued a Request for Proposal in April 2021, inviting potential investors to submit their proposed projects. The city received five proposals, two from Bally's and one each from HR Chicago, LLC, Rivers Chicago at McCormick, LLC, and Rivers 78 Gaming, LLC.
Bally's other proposal was to build a $1.6 billion property in McCormick Place Truck Marshaling. But the city preferred a $1.8 billion property in the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center for various reasons.
For starters, the proposal had a strong edge over the rest. A gaming consultant conducted a study, revealing that Bally's proposed location was not near competitors.
Bally's also wanted to hire locals. Ideally, the casino developer signed a deal with the Chicago Federation of Labor. This meant providing construction jobs and permanent jobs to locals.
Bally's also wanted 60 percent of its workforce to comprise Asians, Latinos, and Blacks. This casino developer even promised $40 million to Chicago before starting its development in the city. The city would use the amount to support Chicago's pension costs.
Proposals from other developers were also good. But, Bally's won the hearts of Chicago residents for considering collaborations between the company and the locals. So, when Chicago City Council chose Bally's, no one was stunned.
The company beat proposals from HR Chicago, LLC, whose casino would be operated by Hard Rock International, Rivers Chicago at McCormick, LLC, and Rivers 78 Gaming, LLC, partnering with Rush Street Gaming. Bally's has already paid the $40 million it promised.