Last week, Bally's temporary casino at the Medinah Temple in the River North neighborhood of Chicago officially opened with plans to operate for up to three years while a more permanent location is constructed in the River West area. However, the use of the building has caused a stir among some locals for both historical and religious reasons.
There has been some outrage over the chosen location of the new casino, with rumors circulating that the 111-year-old building had been used previously as a mosque. Shaob Jilani queried the why the name of Allah was seen on the main entrance of the building.
"Can you please let me know why is the name of Allah (God) on the main entrance of your casino building? Gambling is prohibited in Islam and I wanted to know why you chose to use the name of Allah on the main entrance?."
Bally's Chicago acknowledged that the Medinah Temple is a historical landmark, but didn't draw upon the specifics of the query. A spokesperson for the casino said, "Medinah Temple is a historic landmark that we are currently located at."
However, while the name of the Islamic god Allah is engraved on the main door of the casino, there is no evidence to suggest that the building was a mosque - or any other religious place of ritual - in its history. It was erected in 1912 and home to the Shriners Circus as an auditorium, seating 4,200 that spanned three levels. In 2000, it became a department store following years of dilapidation and having narrowly missed demolition. The building is built in a Moorish technique, an architectural technique associated with Muslim buildings.
Others have also taken to X (formerly Twitter) to state their discontent with the new use of the historic building. Chicago Bars, which works on behalf of bars, restaurants and music establishments in the city said, "To my regret I never went into Medinah Temple when it was a furniture store this is the interior now."
Ted Allen commented, "Oh, I did. Saw great music there, too. My god, is that sad," and William J. Kelly added, "I graduated at Medinah Temple. They have turned it into this monstrosity."
Not all are dismayed by the building's new offering, however. John Bosca, past president of Neighbors of River West and a Casino Community Advisory Council member created by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, has already visited the casino twice.
“It was beautiful inside, with a lot of activity. I really love the stained glass, the unique history and architecture,” Bosca said. “It exceeds the quality of other casinos I’ve visited," he told WTTW.
Bally's Casino in Chicago is one of a few Illinois casinos. While the state has legalized sports betting since 2019, online casino play has yet to pass legislation.