Company that Solicited Chicago Casino Bids Stood to Gain from Bally’s

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
Casino Games


  • Bally’s was chosen to build a $1.7 billion casino in Chicago
  • Nomura lent money to a company Bally’s purchased and agreed to pay debts for
  • Nomura says that it did not recommend Bally’s as a licensee

Bally’s is preparing to open a casino in Chicago after being selected by an independent firm as the most suitable gambling company for the license.

However, it recently came to light that Nomura Securities International—the company that helped Mayor Lori Lightfoot solicit licensees for the project—had a serious financial incentive to select Bally’s thereby muddying the license awarding process, according to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation.

Nomura itself will make $1.5 million as a result of its role in helping the city select its highly- anticipated licensee.

The connection between Bally’s and Nomura

Nomura was enlisted to help Mayor Lightfoot hear the widest array of proposals from leading casino companies. However, despite the seven-figure payout the company stood to obtain as a result of its involvement, the mayor’s office said that Nomura “held no substantive role” in selecting Bally’s over competing suitors.

While Bally’s was negotiating for the license, it was also working on a $2.6 billion deal with British company Gamesys. That deal would not only see Bally’s absorb the company’s assets, but also its debts, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

One of the companies that Bally’s would pay off through its agreement was Nomura, the company hired by the city of Chicago and that ultimately played a part in the company landing the billion-dollar-plus casino project. 

In total, Bally’s agreed to pay Macquarie Corp. and Nomura International £175 million, or $222.6 million by Monday’s exchange rate.

The mayor’s office has not revealed whether it was aware of Nomura’s connection to Bally’s through the Gamesys deal and if it knew they stood to gain from Bally’s being selected as the licensee. 

Nomura also said that while it was asked to solicit applications from companies such as Bally’s, it did not encourage Lightfoot and others to pick the company for the license.

A Bally’s spokesperson also said that Bally’s never loaned money from Nomura and has no professional relationship with the company.

Plans for the casino

Mayor Lightfoot has kept many of her cards close to her chest during the process of selecting Bally’s to run the casino. However, it is known that she denied two other major casino bidders affiliated with Hard Rock and BetRivers in the process. That was, in part, because Bally’s offered $25 million upfront and then raised the offer to $40 million, which was believed to result in more tax money than the other offers. 

Bally’s is still awaiting approval from the Illinois Gaming Board to seize the reins of a temporary casino that is being erected at Medinah Temple in River North. The permanent casino will be along the Chicago River at the Chicago Tribune’s printing plant. 

The $1.7 billion build will be Bally’s most expensive ever, offering it a great opportunity in a densely-populated urban area with a blossoming gaming scene. It will include over 3,400 slot machines, 170 table games, a hotel, and a gaming center, and is expected to produce over $190 million per year in tax funding.

Illinois approved legal sports betting in 2019 and accepted the first wager in June 2020. The state collected nearly $1.9 billion in gross gaming revenue across sportsbook and casino operations in 2022 and is among the most active gambling states.

Locals have expressed concern that the imminent arrival of a new mega-casino could upset the apple cart of local businesses. However, Bally’s plans to introduce a system of rewards that incentivizes casino visitors to shop at local nearby shops.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.