Penn Entertainment Bringing Hollywood Casino Riverboats Ashore in Illinois

Posted on: October 10, 2022, 03:23h. 

Last updated on: October 10, 2022, 04:02h.

Penn Entertainment is bringing its Hollywood Casino riverboats in Illinois inland. It’s part of an $850 million investment spree from the Pennsylvania-headquartered casino operator.

Penn Entertainment riverboat Hollywood Aurora Columbus
Hollywood Casino Aurora is seen from above on July 1, 2022. Penn Entertainment, which operates the casino, wants to relocate the Illinois riverboat to nearby land. (Image: Wikimedia)

Penn, formerly Penn National Gaming until the organization’s rebranding earlier this year, plans to move its Hollywood riverboats in Aurora and Joliet ashore to new land-based facilities. In 2019, Illinois’ expansion of gambling, headlined by a downtown Chicago integrated resort and five smaller casinos in the Chicago suburbs, included provisions to allow the state’s 10 riverboat casinos to seek state approval to move inland.

Penn Entertainment plans to do just that with Hollywood Casino Aurora and Hollywood Casino Juliet.

Since the change in law to permit land-side casino relocation in Illinois, we have been exploring the viability of relocating our aging riverboats in Aurora and Joliet. Thanks to the support of our local community leaders … we are very excited to be moving forward with these projects,” said Penn Entertainment President and CEO Jay Snowden.

In Aurora, Penn plans to develop a new brick-and-mortar casino and hotel adjacent to the Chicago Premium Outlets to replace the riverboat. In Joliet, Penn intends to construct a new land-based casino as part of the Rock Run Crossings retail development.

$545M Budgeted in Illinois

Penn Entertainment has set aside $360 million for the Aurora project. The Chicago Premium Outlets, located just off Interstate 88 at Exit 119, is a little more than three air miles northeast of where Hollywood Casino Aurora is presently located. The riverboat is moored on Stolp Island on the Fox River.

The proposed casino features a 200-room hotel and casino floor with 900 slot machines and 50 table games. A Barstool Sportsbook is additionally in the plan, as is a full-service spa, numerous bars and restaurants, and a 10,000-square-foot events center.

Construction on Hollywood Casino Aurora’s future home is set to begin in late 2023, subject to state and city regulatory approvals.

In Joliet, Penn has budgeted $185 million to build a land-based casino at Rock Run Crossing, southeast of the I-80 and I-55 interchange. The targeted development site for the brick-and-mortar casino is roughly two air miles from the current Hollywood Casino Joliet riverboat.

The plan is to build a “modern, best-in-class” casino at Rock Run featuring 800 slots, 45 tables, and a Barstool Sportsbook. Several restaurants and watering holes, along with a 10,000-square-foot events center, are also in the blueprint. Construction in Joliet is also slated for late 2023, also subject to state and local approvals.

Additional Penn Spending

The remaining $305 million in spending announced by Penn Entertainment today will go towards doubling the size of the M Resort hotel in Las Vegas and constructing a new hotel tower at Hollywood Casino Columbus.

M Resort has been allocated $206 million to add 264 hotel rooms to the luxury property, located about eight miles south of the Las Vegas Strip.

Hollywood Columbus currently doesn’t have an on-property hotel. Penn plans to spend approximately $100 million to build a 180-room hotel.

Penn Entertainment says the $850 million in total project costs will be funded by amending the company’s master lease with its real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties. The real estate trust will cover $575 million of the $850 million, and then increase annual lease rates for Penn Entertainment to operate the four casino resorts.