Happy about gambling expansion? Elgin, Aurora casinos, no. Rivers Casino, yes.

  • Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said Grand Victoria Casino projects a 15% revenue loss due to gambling expansion in Illinois.

      Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said Grand Victoria Casino projects a 15% revenue loss due to gambling expansion in Illinois. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino in Aurora, said it is displeased with gambling expansion in Illinois.

    Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino in Aurora, said it is displeased with gambling expansion in Illinois. Daily Herald archive

  • A casino could be built in Waukegan on a vacant, city-owned 32-acre site at the southwest corner of Route 120 and Waukegan Road (Route 43), which purposefully has been kept available for the possibility.

      A casino could be built in Waukegan on a vacant, city-owned 32-acre site at the southwest corner of Route 120 and Waukegan Road (Route 43), which purposefully has been kept available for the possibility. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/4/2019 8:41 AM

The massive gambling expansion approved by state legislators over the weekend elicited different reactions from suburban casinos and officials: thumbs-up from Des Plaines, which sees it as a chance for growth; mixed reviews from Aurora; and dismay from Elgin, which worries about declining revenues.

"It's very detrimental to us," Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said.

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The bill, expected to be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, would add six new casinos, legalize sports betting and allow the 10 existing casinos to expand. Revenue, including a higher tax on video gambling, would fund a long-term capital infrastructure plan. Supporters say the bill would add thousands of jobs and could net more than $12 billion in the next six years.

The six casinos would be in Waukegan, Rockford, Danville, the South suburbs, Williamson County and Chicago. The latter would have the largest casino yet with up to 4,000 positions, some of which also could be used for slots at O'Hare and Midway airports.

Existing casinos, including Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and Hollywood Casino in Aurora, would be allowed to have up to 2,000 positions, up from the current 1,200. Casinos, racetracks and sports venues with more than 17,000 seats -- such as United Center and Wrigley Field -- could get sports wagering licenses, and racetracks would be able to install slot machines and table games.

While sports betting "would be a potential plus" for Grand Victoria, Kaptain said, casino officials worry about competing with gambling at Arlington Park racetrack. "They thought that would be devastating," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Grand Victoria spokeswoman Marilou Pilman did not return a request for comment. The casino is owned by Eldorado Resorts.

Kaptain said data from Grand Victoria and industry experts projects a 15% loss in revenue, or about $24 million, due to gambling expansion, amounting to a nearly $2 million for Elgin. The city uses that revenue mostly to fund capital projects.

"It's going to be very hard to compensate for that," Kaptain said.

Nine of the 10 casinos in the state posted declining revenue last year, which led to declining shares for local governments. Elgin's share was $9.2 million last year, or a 5.1% decrease compared to 2017, while Aurora got $6.7 million, or a 3.6% decrease, according to Illinois Gaming Board data.

By comparison, Elgin got a peak of $29.5 million in casino revenue in 2001.

Rivers Casino, established in 2011, has been the only casino to buck the downward trend, resulting in $25 million in revenue for Des Plaines last year, or a 1.2% increase from 2017.

The casino sees gambling expansion as a chance to grow, and it is making plans to apply for a sports betting license, spokesman Dennis Culloton said.

"It is very positive for Des Plaines and for the state," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, which owns Rivers Casino, said in a statement that "Illinois sports fans will have access to legal, regulated and safe sports wagering platforms online and at casinos and race tracks throughout the state. We thank the overwhelming majority of legislators who believed that Illinois should implement sports wagering with responsible gaming operators who have a track record of integrity, innovation and strict adherence to all of Illinois' statutes and laws."

Penn National Gaming, owner of Hollywood Casino in Aurora, had a different take.

"(We) can't comment on specifics in terms of potential impacts other than to express our displeasure with the most massive gaming expansion package we've ever seen in a state that is already saturated from a gaming standpoint," said Eric Schippers, senior vice president for public affairs for Penn National Gaming.

Aurora spokesman Clayton Muhammad said Mayor Richard Irvin lobbied to allow casinos to be on land and to move within their hometowns, because Aurora proposes relocating its casino from downtown to an area along the I-88 tollway near Chicago Premium Outlets. Doing so would create investment, jobs and an increase in revenue, he said.

"For many months, the city of Aurora worked in cooperation with Penn Gaming on future casino options within Aurora. It's always good to plan for future trends and growth in the industry, and parts of the gaming bill allow for this," he said.

"Of course, the other measures in the bill are beneficial to specific municipalities -- as with any comprehensive piece of legislation," Muhammad said.

Kaptain pointed out that in 18 months, the state also would allow online sports wagering licenses, which might further chip away at casino revenues.

"We get money from every person that goes through the turnstile," he said. "What is going to happen in 18 months?"

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