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Bally’s has a lot going on. Is it all too much?

| By Jill R. Dorson | Reading Time: 5 minutes
Bally's has been in the news recently. from Illinois to Nevada to New York to Rhode Island. With the timing of its Chicago casino opening in question and its proposed casino in New York facing stiff competition, we thought it timely to take a look at the whole picture.
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Bally’s is reportedly $800m short of funds needed to build its permanent Chicago casino. Moody’s and Fitch have downgraded the company’s credit rating this year. And in April, Bally’s chairman Soo Kim attempted a poorly received takeover bid. King and Fetter’s Growth Capital (K&F) wrote that taking the company private would “jeopardise the completion of the Chicago project”.

Kim’s hedge fund Standard General owns 26% of Bally’s. He offered $15 per share. That’s above the current share price ($11.22, 14 June), but below the $38-per-share buyout offered in 2022. Just after that 2022 offer, then-Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot awarded the company the casino project.

Bally’s, according to the K&F letter, is “overleveraged” throughout the country. The Fitch downgrade also notes “high leverage”. It is currently redeveloping the former Tropicana site in Las Vegas. The company is among the bidders for one of three downstate casino licences in New York. And it’s on the cusp of getting a change in what kind of debt it can carry in Rhode Island.

Bally’s intense, fast growth

The current iteration of Bally’s started in 2020. Twin River, a brick-and-mortar retail casino and horse track owner, bought the rights to the Bally’s name and rebranded. Kim and Standard General purchased their ownership stake in 2016. In 2019, as chairman of the board, Kim began rapidly expanding the company. Kim then went on to oversee the acquisition of seven casinos in Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri in 2020.

That same year, Bally’s started an aggressive expansion into digital gambling space with plans to become an omnichannel provider. The biggest deal is a partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group. Bally’s rebranded 19 Fox Sports Network regional sports networks as part of a 10-year deal. Sinclair could end up with a 24.9% ownership stake in the company.

In 2021, Bally’s bought free-to-play gaming company SportCaller, daily fantasy provider Monkey Knife Fight, wagering platform Bet.Works and British online gambling group Gamesys. In total, it spent, or committed to spend, about $3bn.

As part of its omnichannel plan, Bally’s also purchased the Association of Volleyball Professionals, the sport now one of several that Bally’s streams on its video app.

Bally’s also added other properties and projects, including the Las Vegas Tropicana, to its portfolio.

Digital gambling dragging down Bally’s?

Taken together, the land-based projects appear daunting for a single entity to manage. Bally’s has a partner – Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc (GLPI) – in Las Vegas, but is flying solo elsewhere. K&F recommends that Bally’s seek partners for its brick-and-mortar projects.

Analysts also point to Bally’s foray into digital sports betting and online casino as a drag on the company. Another regional casino company, Penn Entertainment, heard a similar refrain in late May. Penn shareholder, the Donerail Group, wrote that Penn should offload its ESPN Bet platform and focus on its core casino business.

In the K&F letter, the analysts suggested Bally’s consider doing the same, pointing to “minimal” overlap between the land-based and digital businesses.

What’s next for Bally’s? It’s a good question. We’re not in the business of “picking winners and losers”, as politicians like to say, but here’s a look at the state of Bally’s projects across the US.


Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson early last week told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I know our team is working with (Bally’s) ownership to figure it out like we figured out some of the other things that I’ve inherited. It just has to make absolute sense… I think that one’s still to be determined, to be perfectly frank with you.”

The comment on the Chicago project was the latest in a drama that has been unfolding since Bally’s in 2022 won the right to build the casino. It opened a temporary space at the Medinah Temple site in September 2023. The company, on 5 July, will take over the permanent site at the old Chicago Tribune Printing Center. Bally’s is mandated by the city to open its new casino resort by September 2026.

But it came to light several months ago that Bally’s has an $800m “funding gap” between what it has already invested and the $1.1bn needed to complete the project. Where or how the company will get the money to bridge the shortfall is unclear.

Last week, Alan Woinski, CEO of Gaming USA Corp and editor of the Gaming Industry Daily Report, was even more bleak. Woinski told the Chicago Sun-Times that Bally’s “won’t have that full project by the end of 2026”. He went on to say that even if the company does find funding to complete the Chicago project, a high-interest loan won’t serve the company or the city in the long term.

Bally’s remains steadfast. A spokesman said plans were still on track and that the company’s “commitment to this project has never wavered”.

Johnson didn’t walk back his comment to the Sun-Times, but did seem to have a softer position as last week wore on.

“The city is pleased that Bally’s has reached its highest revenue numbers so far and continues to be committed to the permanent casino project,” Johnson said in a statement, according to NBC Chicago. The casino’s May revenue report was the best since it opened.

NBC Chicago also talked with Alderman Brendan Reilly, who pointed to the money gap as cause for concern.

“I think the bigger issue is whether or not Bally’s can actually afford to develop the site,” Reilly said. “If we look at what we’re hearing from Wall Street, they’re short hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to deliver the casino.”

Chicago’s board of aldermen is now considering holding hearings on Bally’s financial ability to complete the project.


Bally’s is redeveloping the old Tropicana site, which will also house a new Major League Baseball park for the soon-to-be Las Vegas A’s. The park is expected to cost $1.5bn, of which GLPI will reportedly contribute $175m. Bally’s leases the Tropicana resort for $10.5m a year, while GLPI owns the land beneath it. Public funds of up to $380m will be available for the total project, but that leaves $1.1bn in private funding for the A’s to contribute.

In April, Bally’s got a demolition permit to take down the Tropicana by 20 October. The demolition will cost an estimated $15m.

New York

Bally’s launched its Bally Bet digital platform in New York in July 2022. Since then, it signed a 20-year agreement with the city of New York to take over the lease of the former Trump Golf Links in the Bronx. The company is on the hook for $60m for the lease. As part of its plan, Bally’s plans to dedicate 17 of the 192.5 acres to a casino project.

Last year, Bally’s initiated free bus service to the Bronx location, which will potentially include green space and housing.

Like one of the other proposals – Mets owner Steve Cohen’s plans for a Queens casino – Bally’s will need a legislative fix before it can move forward. The Bronx land is designated as parkland and lawmakers must approve turning some of the property into a parking lot. A local public hearing on the issue is set for 25 June. On the state level, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow last month introduced a bill to rezone the land.

Even if Bally’s gets the needed fix, the casino project is no sure thing. There are 11 bidders for three licences. A bill to alter the timeline for bids in New York passed the legislature earlier this month and awaits Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature. The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) plans to issue licences by the end of 2025.

Given that multiple analysts say that Bally’s is already stretched, adding in a $2.5bn casino project may give the NYSGC pause. While the company is committed to the 20-year lease for the Bronx property, it could walk away from the larger investment and use the land for a cheaper, less controversial project.

Rhode Island

Bally’s is the only sports betting and casino operator in the state and works in partnership with the state lottery. Both the land-based and digital products are operational and turning a profit.

Earlier this year, Bally’s asked the legislature to allow it to double the credit it can extend to casino players to $100,000. On Tuesday (11 June), the house passed an amended version of the bill. The senate approved it on 6 June.

Also in the bill is an ask from Bally’s to “negotiate a new debt ratio” with the state, according to the Rhode Island Current. The bill would allow Bally’s to take on “net debt vs gross debt” with the state.