Rock Island & Bally’s enter agreement for $34 million upgrade

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 11:35 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Bally’s Casino in Rock Island is looking at a multimillion-dollar expansion with the addition of a new sportsbook, and the city is looking to pitch in.

On Monday, the city council approved a new development agreement with the entertainment destination for those plans.

Rock Island had a previous development agreement with the casino, back when it was still Jumer’s. That was set to expire this year.

Now new owners Bally’s want to keep up with the competition — with a $34 million investment adding an in-person sports betting lounge and renovating hotel rooms.

Mayor Mike Thoms said the agreement will help the casino continue to generate tax revenue for the city.

“All the way around, it’s really a win-win situation,” Thoms said.

During the pandemic, Thoms said the gaming industry was hit hard and Bally’s needs the city’s help to bounce back.

“The two casinos on the Iowa side, took market share away because the people wanted someplace to go,” Thoms said. “We’re now back up and operating here.”

In addition to the COVID struggles, a new casino is coming to Rockford, and video slots continue to grow around the state. During a city council study session on Monday, Mark Schwiebert, legal counsel for Bally’s, said the casino needs to stand out with a new sportsbook and lounge.

“[The lounge gives] us something the other gaming operations in the Quad Cities don’t have,” Schwiebert said. “We’ll be adding an additional 80 jobs over that period of time.”

Over the next five years, the city will contribute $4.7 million to the casino.

According to Thoms, the partnership won’t cost taxpayers.

“There’s no new tax having to be paid for this development,” Thoms said. “It is the current taxes that are being paid here that are rebated back to them.”

In fact, he said the deal will bring back revenue to the city.

“You’re looking at five to $6 million of revenue that they generate,” Thoms said. “It also generates jobs.”

The agreement sures up an already strong relationship between the casino and Rock Island.

“They give scholarships to Rock Island High School,” Thoms said.”They have actually sponsored, they bought a lot of Girl Scout cookies .... the other day $15,000 worth of Girl Scout cookies they bought that they’re giving out.”

In a statement to TV6 News, Vice President and General Manager Travis Hankin said the casino is grateful for the agreement between the city.

“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,” Hankin wrote. “We are committed to bringing a best-in-class venue to our casino that will be a new destination for Rock Island.”

Officials with Bally’s expect to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the sports book sometime in late June or early July.