PENN Entertainment (formerly known as Penn National Gaming) is looking to exit the Illinois riverboat casino sector.
The New York-based company announced Wednesday in a company press release it is moving its riverboat operations in Aurora and Joliet to new land-based facilities, taking advantage of new state laws.
Riverboat gaming facilities have been in operation in Illinois since the Riverboat Gambling Act passed in 1990. It was amended three years ago to allow the 10 on-water facilities in the state to move on shore. There are no legal Illinois online casinos.
The two Illinois casino moves are among the properties covered in PENN’s $850 million splurge on revitalizing its properties — they are also updating Hollywood Columbus in Ohio and M Resort in Henderson, Nevada.
Both Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet offer retail Illinois sports betting under the Barstool brand.
Since March, Illinois betting apps have required no in-person registration.
Jay Snowden, who serves as the CEO and president of PENN Entertainment, said in the company release the Illinois casinos will be update in accordance with the state’s 2019 law.
“Since the change in law to permit land-side casino relocation in Illinois, we have been exploring the viability of relocating our aging riverboats in Aurora and Joliet,” Snowden said in the press release. “Thanks to the support of our local community leaders, in particular the visionary leadership of Mayor Richard Irvin and his staff in Aurora, we are very excited to be moving forward with these projects.”
What Customers Can Expect at New Illinois Casinos
Snowden said the new PENN Entertainment facilities in Aurora and Joliet will feature all the bells and whistles the company’s leading casinos are known for, with ample table games and other gaming devices.
He added the company’s preferred locations would be near Interstate 88 in Aurora and Interstates 80 and 55 in Joliet.
The new property in Aurora will receive $50 million in funding from the city, Snowden said, with that sum coming from new bonds and subject to the approval of Aurora’s city council.
“Our plan for Aurora is to construct a modern, best-in-class casino and hotel in an ideal location off I-88 that will allow us to serve the millions of visitors to the adjacent Simon Premium Outlet Mall,” Snowden said in the release. “In Joliet, our planned casino will be located in the Rock Run Crossings development mixed use project in close proximity to the I-80 and I-55 interchange, which offers exceptional visibility and accessibility.
“These two projects will significantly improve our offerings in the highly attractive Chicagoland market while creating hundreds of new full-time jobs for the local communities.”
PENN Entertainment will work in conjunction with Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc., on the two Illinois properties, signing a new master lease with the publicly traded company in Aurora and Joliet, as well as at the company’s Hollywood Columbus (Ohio), Hollywood Toledo (Ohio), the M Resort (Nevada), the Meadows (Pennsylvania), and Hollywood Perryville (Maryland).
Snowden said the financing provided by Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc., in conjunction with the public funding from the city of Aurora, will allow them to ensure the Chicagoland area continues to have best-in-class gaming facilities for its customers, long term.
“The overall estimated budget for these new growth projects is approximately $850 million,” Snowden added in the release. “With the ability to access attractive financing from [Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc.] covering up to $575 million of the anticipated costs, along with up to $50 million from the city of Aurora, subject to final approvals, we have the opportunity to pursue these high growth projects while preserving our cash position and leverage profile.”
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