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updated: 1/8/2014 5:34 PM

Rivers Casino continues growth in second year

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  • The Rivers Casino has so far avoided revenue declines seen at other suburban gambling palaces.

      The Rivers Casino has so far avoided revenue declines seen at other suburban gambling palaces.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Casino revenue

    Graphic: Casino revenue (click image to open)

By Zachary White

In its second full year, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines has so far managed to avoid the declining revenues that have burdened other Illinois gambling palaces, an Illinois Gaming Board report released today shows.

Meanwhile, the Grand Victoria in Elgin and Hollywood Casino in Aurora continue to see the amount of money gamblers spend plummet.

Rivers in 2013 saw a slight increase in its revenues over 2012, up about a half a percent to take in $418 million in 2013. The Grand Victoria saw a 8.5 percent drop to $194 million, and Hollywood fell 6.5 percent to $141 million, the report says.

But despite Rivers' relatively stable revenue, the number of people who passed through its doors dropped 6.3 percent to 3,716,598 a year, a decline that could have its roots in the expanding availability of gambling machines in bars and restaurants.

Regardless of Rivers' gains this year, the revenue is less than was hoped for at the beginning of the year, said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, which represents Rivers.

"They've moved ahead for about a year and a half," he said, but after that "they seem to have stood still," Swoik said.

Swoik said the casino had been growing quickly, but video gambling is a new source of competition. The more than 12,000 machines in bars and restaurants outnumber slot machines in Illinois casinos, and the amount spent on video gambling in November was greater than even Rivers' take in that month.

"If you only have 20 bucks to use on gambling, you used to go to the slots," state Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, said. "Now they just go to the little video gaming places." Legalized gambling in bars and restaurants began in September 2012, but the number of machines grew exponentially in 2013.

Meanwhile, since the opening of Rivers in summer 2011, the Grand Victoria has seen a decrease in revenue of more than $70 million. The Grand Victoria, which was the highest grossing casino in 2010 with $287 million in profits, made less than $200 million in 2013 for the first time in at least recent history.

Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said the Grand Victoria expected a decrease in revenue of 25 percent following the opening of a big, new casino nearby in Des Plaines. The Elgin boat's loss in revenue since 2010 is about 27 percent.

"Grand Victoria was right on their target," Kaptain said.

In 2008 the Grand Victoria Casino -- long the state's biggest by revenue -- took in more than $338 million, close to what the Rivers did last year.

Moylan praised the Rivers Casino's management for its early successes.

"One of the reasons why ours is maintaining its revenue sources is the quality of the institution and location," Moylan said.

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