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https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/mitchell-armentrout


NextImg:All bets are on: Bally’s temporary Chicago casino opens for business at Medinah Temple

After decades of political wrangling by past Chicago mayors, years of jockeying by potential developers for the lucrative deal and months of preparation by the lucky bidder to open its doors, Bally’s temporary Chicago casino took the city’s first-ever legal wagers from the betting public Saturday morning. 

Not that any of that lengthy history was on display outside the landmark Medinah Temple in River North, where a few dozen of Chicago’s first casino gamblers started lining up 90 minutes ahead of the casino’s official opening at 8 a.m. 

First in line was Steven Henry, who showed up at 6:30 a.m. for first dibs on a “Dancing Drums” slot machine. It only took him 20 minutes to get to the new downtown casino from the Austin neighborhood. “That’s what excites me — it’s close.”

One group of friends of a certain age — who called themselves the “Thirty Dirty” club from Bronzeville — exclaimed in line: “We’re seniors… We’re in there to get this money.” 

“If you see me walking out like this, it means I lost,” one woman said, melodramatically slouched over.

Friends who called themselved the “Thirty Dirty Club” from Bronzeville line up outside Bally’s temporary casino in River North Saturday morning.

Friends who called themselved the “Thirty Dirty Club” from Bronzeville line up outside Bally’s temporary casino in River North Saturday morning.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Beyond that, there was little fanfare when security workers started waving patrons inside the glass doors at 600 N. Wabash Ave. 

There was, however, an early indication of the possible congestion issues posed by the house of chance in the heart of a busy tourist district. Carolyn Williams, the fourth person in line, said she she had some trouble finding a parking garage open that early, and was miffed to learn it wasn’t free. 

Nevertheless, she said he was still “excited to win.”

City officials are hoping to win a steady stream of cash from the casino to Chicago’s nearly insolvent police and firefighter pension funds. 

That’s been the goal since former Mayor Richard M. Daley first embraced the casino concept in 1992, but neither he nor his successor, Rahm Emanuel, could hammer out a deal with lawmakers to create a Chicago casino license. 

Lori Lightfoot finally made it happen in 2019, and the city is now banking on up to $50 million per year in tax revenue from Medinah Temple, which will serve as Bally’s temporary casino for three years while they build a larger permanent facility at the site of the Chicago Tribune printing plant in River West. 

Special guests wait in line to enter Bally’s casino in River North during the casino’s test session on Wednesday. The casino opened to the public Saturday morning.

Special guests wait in line to enter Bally’s casino in River North during the casino’s test session on Wednesday. The casino opened to the public Saturday morning.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Until then, the lights will be fired up at Medinah Temple, the 111-year-old former headquarters of the Shriners fraternal organization that now houses almost 800 slot machines and 56 table games. 

The casino is open 8 a.m. until 4 a.m., seven days a week, and will eventually be a 24/7 operation, Bally’s said. 

This is a developing story. Check back soon for more.