Chicago has a casino deal. Are slot machines in the airports next? – Chicago Tribune

The state law granting Chicago a casino also gave the developer another gold nugget: the chance to install slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice of Chicago casino — a Bally’s-run entertainment and gambling complex in River West — was announced at a celebratory press conference in downtown Thursday, where city, labor and business leaders spoke at length about the expected benefits. of the plan.

But city officials have said significantly less about the prospects of bringing slot machines to Chicago’s two major airports, with representatives from both City Hall and the Chicago Department of Aviation saying no plans are currently in the works.

However, Bally’s chairman Soo Kim told the Tribune that he is “very interested” in placing slot machines in Chicago’s airports, calling it an “intriguing idea” that could serve as both a marketing tool and a potential revenue stream booster.

“I think it has to be done right, in collaboration with the other concessionaires at the airport,” Kim said. “We can put part of our machine count at the airport. I think that will help a bit to announce Bally’s presence.”

Tucked into the 2019 state law that granted a casino license to Chicago is a provision that authorizes the city’s casino developer to install some of its slot machine allocation at the two airports, as long as the total number of “game positions” at all locations it does not exceed 4,000. Airport slots must also be located in a “secure area” that is past airport security and only accessible to those 21 and older.

Bally’s proposal for its River West casino calls for 3,400 slot machines and 170 gaming tables, potentially leaving room for additional slots at O’Hare and Midway.

Slot machines at the airports would put Chicago in rare company with Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, who also offer gambling at their airports. Other cities like Pittsburgh have considered it.

But Lightfoot’s office is not considering such a venture at this time, a city hall spokesman said, as it is believed to be more lucrative to focus on the Bally’s River West location.

Kim, who co-founded New York hedge fund Standard General, the casino company’s largest shareholder, also said the top priority right now is the casino proposal, an estimated $1.7 billion plan that will include a hotel tower, theater, outdoor music venue. and several restaurants.

Those plans must pass the City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board and face significant opposition from the neighborhood.

But if all goes according to plan, Bally’s hopes to launch a temporary casino in Chicago’s Medinah Temple building early next year and its permanent location in 2026.

However, no timetable has been established for airport slots.

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