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updated: 9/12/2011 5:27 PM

New Rivers Casino hits Elgin's Grand Victoria hard

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  • The new Rivers Casino is the most lucrative gambling facility in Illinois.

       The new Rivers Casino is the most lucrative gambling facility in Illinois.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- The new Rivers Casino in Des Plaines was the most lucrative in the state in its first full month of operation, unseating Elgin's Grand Victoria, where revenue was down 24 percent.

The Rivers Casino brought in nearly twice the receipts in August as the Grand Victoria, which previously was the highest revenue generator of the state's casinos for much of its existence.

"We're thankful," Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan said of the new casino.

The new numbers come from the Illinois Gaming Board's monthly report for August, which appears to confirm Elgin officials' fears that the Rivers Casino would directly compete with them.

The Grand Victoria Casino's revenues for August, down 24 percent compared to August 2010, are also down nearly 20 percent from just last month.

The Rivers Casino, which opened July 18, pulled in $34.1 million in adjusted gross receipts -- the money bet on the casino floor. The Grand Victoria brought in about $18.5 million.

The Hollywood Casino in Aurora dropped almost 4 percent over August of last year, with the report showing $14.7 million in receipts. Both casinos in Joliet saw declines, too.

Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said the decline was expected.

"The Grand Victoria has to compete with the businesses around it," Kaptain said.

Opponents of putting slot machines at Arlington Park and proposed new casinos in Lake County, Chicago and other places have argued competition poses a major threat to current casinos' business futures.

"There are only so many gamblers to go around," Moylan said.

A big opening at a casino in Chicago, for example, might dampen the revenues in Des Plaines just like the Rivers Casino has done to the Grand Victoria so far.

Supporters of expansion, though, say that, overall, more gambling means more revenue for the state.

In fact, the Rivers Casino opening meant the total revenue of Illinois' casinos was up more than 18 percent in August over the same month last year.

Monthly reports over the following year will give a better sense of the new casino's long-term future, as the crush of people heading there for the first time wears off. Some local officials hope, though, that the shiny new facilities will keep people coming back.

As for plans to add more gambling in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers continue to wrangle, a fight that could come to a head when lawmakers return to Springfield in late October.

Illinois casino revenues had been dropping as the economy put a damper on gamblers' willingness to risk their cash in the slot machines and on the tables.

In fact, even a big opening in Des Plaines doesn't quite match up with Grand Victoria's heyday.

Ten years ago, in August 2001, Elgin took in $35.1 million, $1 million more than Des Plaines took in last month.

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