Rock Island agrees to reimburse $4.7M in casino plan

Our Quad Cities
Rock Island agrees to reimburse $4.7M in casino plan

Bally’s Casino and Hotel, Rock Island, is planning a $34-million redevelopment, and the city is placing its bets to reimburse a good chunk of that.

The former Jumer’s Casino and Hotel (bought by Bally’s in 2021), at Illinois 92 and I-280, is the oldest of the three Quad Cities casinos, having opened in 2008 and is lagging in market share, said Tarah Sipes, the city’s economic development manager. The other two local casinos are Isle Bettendorf and Rhythm City in Davenport.

“Bally’s approached us. They were hit pretty hard by COVID shutdowns mandated by the state of Illinois,” she said Thursday. “There was a period of three or four months where they couldn’t be in operation.

“So that hit them hard,” she said. “Because of that shutdown, they lost market share. Beyond the purchase of the casino, they’ve invested significant capital in rebranding the casino and updating the systems and the equipment and the games. And they have showed us some of their continued capital improvements that they’ll be making in addition to the needed refurbishment of the hotel rooms that are still original to the property, and creation of the Sportsbook and sports lounge area.”

Bally’s plans to invest $34 million in total renovations of all 205 hotel rooms and converting the DJ’s Steakhouse into a new Sportsbook and sports lounge area. That will feature several big-screen televisions and have a room available for private parties.

“We’re really trying to make sure that this property can remain competitive and that’s truly the essence of why we decided to help out with this agreement,” Sipes said.

The Sportsbook and sports lounge are required to be completed by December 2023, with the hotel renovations done by 2025, she said. Bally’s anticipates adding 80 new jobs as a result, and boosting compensation for all employees.

The agreement, approved this week by the Rock Island City Council, would reimburse Bally’s $4,758,613 for eligible redevelopment project costs from the increase in property taxes within the TIF district, starting Dec. 1, 2023, through Dec. 1, 2027.

“Bally’s is grateful to the city of Rock Island staff and the City Council members for working with us on the extension of this development agreement,” Bally’s Quad Cities vice president and general manager Travis Hankins said Thursday. “It is a great example of public/private partnership and one that will allow us to invest in our property and be more competitive in the market.  We are committed to bringing a best-in-class venue to our casino that will be a new destination for Rock Island.”

In addition to the 205-room hotel renovation, the new Bally’s Sports Bar will “bring a best-in-class sports bar to the Quad Cities,” Hankins said. “Here, fans can expect a high-energy American brew pub serving lunch, dinner, and drinks.

“The environment is meticulously curated for those seeking a casual and social setting with cuisine that goes well beyond bar food,” he said. “With curated dining menus, over 20 big screens, a 25-foot video wall, and The Luxury Box private dining area, Bally’s Sports Bar will be the best place for the big games.

“The prominent 25-seat bar will be a must-experience attraction offering a gastro-pub style menu and a curated tap list featuring 20 local and national brewers and craft cocktails,” Hankins said, noting the Bally’s Sports Bar will be located just off the casino floor.

Bally’s since 2021

In June of 2021, Bally’s acquired the project site and assets, converting it to Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel.

The Rock Island casino has over 39,000 square feet of gaming, containing nearly 900 slot machines16 table games including a craps table and roulette6 live poker tables and a high limit slot room.

Bally’s told the city it is not economically feasible for them to undertake the new project without financial assistance and the city is prepared to financially assist in an amount not to exceed a portion of the eligible redevelopment project costs (estimated to be $12,583,418), in order to induce Bally’s to construct and complete the new project, according to the city agreement.

“The city desires the developer to proceed with the new project in accordance with this Agreement in order to guarantee the continuing operation of a major commercial facility thereby maintaining and increasing job opportunity for its resident and increasing its tax base and, therefore, is prepared to reimburse the developer for certain eligible redevelopment project costs,” the agreement says.

TIF (tax-increment financing) funds can’t be used to reimburse new construction or new materials, but are designed for rehabilitation or renovation costs, Sipes said Thursday.

“Tiling or some of the more major fixture replacements, that kind of thing that rehabilitates the room and keeps it viable is eligible,” she said. “But a bed or a TV or a dresser or curtains and bed sheets, something like that wouldn’t be considered eligible.”

Huge new Chicago center

Bally’s also is building a new $1.7-billion complex in downtown Chicago, on the 30-acre Chicago Tribune Publishing Center at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, Bally’s Chicago will transform this currently underutilized site into a major economic driver for the city, the company has said.

Among other features and amenities, Bally’s Chicago will include 3,400 slots, 170 table games, 10 food and beverage venues, a 500-room hotel tower with rooftop bar, a 3,000-seat / 65,000-square-foot entertainment center, a 20,000-square-foot exhibition, outdoor music venue, and outdoor green space including an expansive public riverwalk with a water taxi stop.

The city of Chicago approved the first casino license for the city last May.

“Today, we have marked yet another important milestone in our journey to bring Chicago its first-ever casino and entertainment district,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said then. “A city casino signals to the world that our economy is on a strong path toward recovery and helps to ensure our structurally-sound, fiscal future. I thank all of the Aldermen who voted in favor of Bally’s proposal, which will undoubtedly lead to the creation of a world-class casino for our world-class city.”

Bally’s has been in the casino business since 2010, when it operated just a single casino property — Twin River Casino — in Lincoln, Rhode Island. It has grown significantly to become one of the largest casino operators in the U.S. with 16 casinos spanning 11 states (including pending acquisitions), and over 10,000 employees.

The namesake of the former Jumer’s Casino & Hotel was D. James Jumer, (for whom DJ’s Steakhouse was named), the Peoria hospitality magnate who died in September 2008 at 82, less than three months before the opening of the new Rock Island complex. Jumer opened the former Jumer’s Castle Lodge in Bettendorf in 1973, and in Illinois, Jumer’s Castle Lodge in Peoria and Jumer’s Chateau in Bloomington were once the only two hotels outside the Chicago area to receive the Four Diamond AAA award.

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