New Chicago casino location: Bally's opens temporary River North casino at former Medinah Temple
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's very first casino is now open for business.
Bally's opened its doors at 8 a.m. Saturday at the former Medinah Temple in River North.
First in line was Steven Henry.
'"I wanted to get down here before it got really crazy because a lot of people have been buzzing about the new site and this is the first time I've been down here down here," said Henry. "I figured I was going to be the fiftieth honestly, even this early."
The 111-year-old site on Wabash and Ohio kept its historical architecture, including original ceilings, with stained glass throughout. The bulk of the slot machines are on the first floor, where a giant bar welcomes guests, and a small café is located.
Table games and more slot machines are located on the second floor, with two restaurants and the VIP/high roller level on the third floor.
The temporary location is packed with nearly 800 glowing slot machines and 50 card tables all while Bally builds its permanent $1.7 billion casino at the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center printing plant side in River West, which could take up to three years.
"I love it. We waited many years for this. So it's nice that it's finally here," said Lincoln Park resident Bonnie Bunting.
Mayor Brandon Johnson said gaming revenues will support Chicago's police and fire pension funds while also generating millions in revenue for the city.
"We are happy to have it in the neighborhood. I think it's a good addition. It brings additional revenue, tax revenue," said John and Sue Dotoi, who live in Streeterville.
"I'm hoping the taxes in the city will be reduced, having a business here, some economic relief," added Chicago resident Stan Kozlowski.
People were certainly ready to spend some money on Saturday.
"It created a lot of jobs, and hopefully it can creates winnings for most of us," said Chicago resident Carolyn Williams.
There has been a non-stop line out the door of folks waiting to check out the new neighborhood attraction, and the excitement is palpable.
"They finally got it into Chicago! I'm just overwhelmed," said Chicago resident PJ McPherson.
It's a controversial issue for some in the River North neighborhood. Some say they have been looking forward to the opening.
"I think something that we're missing in the River North area is 'experiences' and not just shopping," said resident Kush Patel.
"The city could use the revenue, number one. But number two, yeah ,we'll see what happens about the road. But, as long as everyone is safe and has a good time, it should be good," said Miri Atkinson, who lives in Streeterville.
Others are a bit concerned about any new traffic congestion and crime. The area has struggled with increased crime including carjackings, armed robberies and shootings over the past year.
"It's pretty hard to imagine thousands of casino goers going back and forth through neighborhood at all hours to gamble is going to make that situation better," said River North Residents Association Director Emeritus Brian Israel.
About a dozen officers were seen outside the building at all times on Saturday.
OEMC was also there to help with traffic control on the first day. Alderman Brian Hopkins said that was intentional.
"We wanted to start with a strong police presence, because you can always scale back from there if need be," Hopkins said.
There haven't been any issues so far, but the alderman said some are nervous for what the casino could bring to an already increasingly high-crime area.
"It's an existing problem. It won't be newly-created by the casino. But, the casino and the crowds that it attracts might possibly exacerbate it. That's our concern. That's been the neighborhood's concern, and it, frankly, is a valid concern," Hopkins said.
Hopkins said the city and CPD will review this opening weekend and adjust resources accordingly. He said Bally's has also contributed $2 million of their own money toward neighborhood security.