Bally’s Chicago Casino Bid: Activist Groups Raise New Concerns

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“This council must carry out a full and thorough suitability investigation and resist the pressure to rush to issue a license,” the groups wrote. The seven-page memo compares the situation to two decades ago, when officials initially approved the Emerald Casino project in Rosemont under heavy political pressure only to have its license withdrawn amid allegations that some of those involved had ties to organized crime.

The letter raises no questions about Mafia involvement. But it does highlight a range of other issues that could potentially impact the board.

One is Bally’s alleged “lack of candor” in his application, filed Aug. 10.

Contrary to what the company said about its suitability, Bally’s Corp., the plaintiff’s parent company, was cited in Rhode Island for letting “several unlicensed employees” work at its casino and for contracting to wrong excessive debt to pay a dividend to shareholders. and repurchase shares, the letter says.

The latter is just a sign of financial weakness, the letter claims, with Bally’s predecessor company having gone bankrupt and the company recently announcing it had only $176 million in cash despite pledging to invest. $1.6 billion in Chicago. This aligns with some concerns in financial markets about Bally’s ability to fund the Chicago deal, with both Fitch and S&P having recently lowered their outlook on corporate debt from neutral to negative.

Beyond that, Bally’s has unduly pushed the line that everything is ready to go, for example telling an investor conference that it has already ordered slot machines for a temporary casino in the ancient temple of Medina. , although license applicants are supposed to wait for approval before taking such action, the groups charge. The company has boasted of generating “significant revenue” in jurisdictions where gambling is illegal and already controls two licenses in Illinois itself or through its chairman, Soo Kim.

Neither Bally’s nor Lightfoot’s office had an immediate reaction to the letter.

Bally’s said it hopes to open its temporary location next year, with the permanent River West casino in 2026. Lightfoot called for a quick license approval, saying the city badly needs the tax revenue the casino will generate to financially support weak police and fire pension funds.

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