Aurora officials: Taxpayers won't foot bill for $50 million loan to build new casino

Aurora property taxpayers will not be on the hook to repay a $50 million loan that would help Hollywood Casino build a new casino and hotel.

The loan instead would be repaid from increased property taxes received from the Farnsworth Avenue site, officials said Thursday at a city council finance committee meeting.

The project is estimated to cost $360 million. The city would supply the $50 million, plus two city-owned parcels which used to house motels.

The existing downtown casino, comprising the gambling hall on a floating platform and a four-story building, would be demolished. The land would be transferred to the city in a development-ready state, said Trevor Dick, assistant director of the Mayor's Office of Economic Development.

The finance committee approved the redevelopment agreement. The city council's committee of the whole will consider the agreement Tuesday.

"Let's make it happen," Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns said praising the plan.

Besides gambling, Penn Entertainment proposes building a 200-room hotel, a spa and several restaurants on the site across Farnsworth Avenue from the Chicago Premium Outlets Mall.

A copy of the proposed agreement was not available at the meeting or on the city's website as of late Thursday.

The city would borrow $50 million by selling general-obligation bonds.

The Farnsworth Avenue site already is located in a tax-increment financing district, or TIF, which collects the increase in property taxes generated from an increase in the value of the land into a special fund. The redevelopment agreement calls for removing the project land from that TIF and putting in to a new micro-TIF.

In a TIF district, property taxes paid to local governments, including school districts, are frozen at their current level for 23 years. Money from the special TIF fund can be used to pay for projects that improve the site, such as the building of the casino. The micro-TIF would last for 23 years.

Dick said if the property taxes in any year aren't enough to cover the loan payment, the casino would have to make up the difference.

The Hollywood Casino opened in 1993 on two riverboats. The boats were removed in 2004 and 2010. In 2019, the state changed its casino law, no longer requiring casinos to operate over or near a waterway.

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