PENN Entertainment announced Monday it will be relocating its Illinois casinos in Aurora and Joliet to land-based locations and constructing new hotels at properties in Ohio and Nevada.
Both Illinois casinos are within 50 miles of Chicago, where Bally’s submitted its application to operate a casino in the downtown area earlier this year. One of the provisions of the 2019 gaming expansion bill that legalized sports wagering in the state also removed the requirement that casinos be confined to water.
Illinois currently has 11 casinos in operation, including Hard Rock’s temporary facility in Rockford. The gaming expansion bill allowed for casinos in six new locations throughout the state, with the planned Bally’s downtown casino and one by Wind Creek currently under construction in suburban Cook County as the closest to PENN’s existing Aurora and Joliet venues.
PENN estimates the cost of its four projects nationally to be approximately $850 million, with $575 million funded through amending its master lease with Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc.
PENN President and CEO Jay Snowden said in a statement, “With the ability to access attractive financing from GLPI 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.”
Goal to make Illinois casinos more accessible
Aurora and Joliet rank second and third, respectively, in population among cities in Illinois, with their combined population totaling close to 330,000. The Aurora venue is located in the downtown part of the city, but PENN has targeted a location by the city’s Simon Premium Outlet mall, which has a substantial flow of traffic originating from Interstate 88. The Aurora development also includes land transfers and $50 million in funding from a new bond issuance subject to approval by the Aurora City Council.
The $360 million project calls for a casino with 900 slots, 50 table games with rooms for baccarat and poker, and a Barstool Sportsbook for retail betting. It will also have a 200-room hotel, 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and a convention center. If all approvals are granted as expected, ground would be broken in late 2023.
The relocation of Hollywood Joliet has a more modest budget of $185 million and slightly fewer gaming positions — 800 slots and 45 table games. It would also have a Barstool Sportsbook, the same amount of meeting space, and a convention center. It would be located adjacent to both I-80 and I-55 as part of the Rock Run Crossings Development Project.
“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 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.”
Hollywood Aurora ranks fourth among state casinos in adjusted revenue generated in 2022 with $75.2 million through September. Hollywood Joliet is fifth with nearly $66 million, but it lags severely behind Harrah’s Joliet. That casino, located in the downtown area, ranks third with close to $101.3 million.
Hotel addition in Columbus, expansion in Henderson
In Ohio, PENN has plans to construct a 180-room hotel connected to Hollywood Columbus that will also include new food and beverage options. The $100 million project would break ground late next year if all approvals are given, with the potential to generate 100 permanent new jobs.
The second hotel at M Resort Tower in Henderson, near Las Vegas, would nearly double the number of rooms on that property to 774 when including suites. The 384-room project, with a price tag of $206 million, also includes plans for expanded meeting spaces and updated amenities.
“Since opening in 2012, our Columbus property has experienced tremendous growth, and the addition of a hotel at the property will create a true regional destination,” Snowden said. “At the M Resort, the addition of a second tower will benefit from the strong demand in the Henderson locals market while providing additional capacity for the group business that is drawn to our market-leading resort and amenities, including our highly successful partnership with the Las Vegas Raiders.”