Bally’s, a gambling company based in Rhode Island, finds itself facing investigations from federal and local authorities over the acquisition of the highly coveted Chicago casino license. The processes leading to Bally’s securing the license have triggered simultaneous investigations by both the US attorney’s office and Chicago Inspector General Deborah Witzburg.
The federal inquiry, reportedly prompted by complaints from unsuccessful bidders in the casino licensing process, has brought the matter into the spotlight. Alderman Brian Hopkins, known for his consistent criticism of former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s management of the casino proceedings, confirmed the existence of the federal investigation. The US attorney’s office, however, has remained tight-lipped on the matter. At the same time, Chicago Inspector General Deborah Witzburg is conducting a parallel investigation, adhering to her office’s policy of not commenting on ongoing inquiries.
Bally’s maintains that it is unaware of any investigation, and the city’s Law Department has clarified that neither they nor the mayor’s office have been subpoenaed or requested to provide information. The investigations, according to sources, were initiated months ago, suggesting a prolonged and comprehensive examination of the casino licensing process.
This development follows earlier controversies surrounding Bally’s, including alterations to financial deals with minority investors and discrepancies in fees charged to different bidders. Reports also highlighted potential conflicts of interest with city consultants evaluating financial prospects.
Despite these controversies, Bally’s secured City Council approval with a decisive 39-5 vote for the $1.7 billion project. The casino, anticipated to alleviate the city’s unfunded public employee pension liabilities, opened a temporary location in September at the former Medinah Temple, with construction on the permanent site expected to commence soon for an opening in late 2026.
The casino project has been on Chicago’s agenda for decades, gaining serious traction only in 2020. Representing the area designated for the casino, 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett praised the accomplishment, emphasizing the significance of the pursuit spanning three administrations.
However, the opening of Bally’s casino in Chicago has raised concerns among addiction treatment experts, who anticipate a rise in individuals seeking help for gambling disorders. Although there hasn’t been an immediate surge in cases, experts warn that the expansion of gaming facilities historically correlates with an increase in people seeking treatment for gambling problems.