Des Plaines casino boosts state’s gambling revenues but cuts into competitors’ take
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Springfield bureau chief email@example.com Twitter: @davemckinney123 July 10, 2012 5:51PM
FILE PHOTO Visitors to the Empress Casino play the slot machines in Joliet, Ill., in a May 2003 file photo Riverboat gambling is big-time business in Illinois, and it could get much bigger soon. But before that happens, House Speaker Michael Madigan wants to bring the obscure Illinois Gaming Board that keeps a close eye on the casino industry into the spotlight. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Updated: August 12, 2012 6:41AM
SPRINGFIELD — The Rivers Casino in Des Plaines has muscled overall state revenues and admissions to casinos higher so far this year but seemingly at the expense of neighboring casinos whose numbers have dropped sharply, state records show.
Those findings in the latest Illinois Gaming Board report confirm that the northwest suburban casino has more than met expectations that it would become a massive money-machine while possibly cannibalizing some of its closest competitors.
And the overall uptick this year in total gambling revenues statewide differs from casino numbers in Indiana that have stayed flat and comes as a major casino-expansion bill that would allow for a casino in Chicago faces a likely veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.
During June alone, the Des Plaines casino took in a whopping $42.5 million in revenues, easily doubling its next busiest rival, Harrah’s Casino in Joliet, which generated $17.8 million in revenues, state records showed.
“I think it’s exceeding expectations,” said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, a trade group representing the state’s casino industry.
Rivers Casino’s admissions for the month were equally lopsided compared to its rivals. During June, the Des Plaines casino had 325,115 patrons come through its doors, again more than doubling business at the next busiest casino, the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, records show.
“There may be a few people coming from Indiana, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near what was anticipated. I think a high percentage is coming from other Illinois casinos,” Swoik said of the Rivers Casino.
Between January and May, all Illinois casinos had $698.7 million in revenues, which represented a 22-percent gain from the $570.7 million that was brought in during the same period last year.
And admissions statewide rose by 23 percent during that five-month span this year, though six of the state’s 10 casinos had fewer gambling patrons during June as compared to June 2011.
The drain in revenues and bettors appears to be most acute at Elgin’s Grand Victoria Casino, which once was Illinois’ most profitable casino. In June, Grand Victoria’s revenues dropped by 25 percent to $17.5 million, less than half of the revenues it generated on a monthly basis five years ago.
Admissions there fell 16 percent to 136,549 between June 2011 and June 2012, records showed.
After the Grand Victoria, the Hollywood Casino in Aurora was the next hardest hit. Its revenues dropped in June by nearly 11 percent to $12.8 million over June 2011. Admissions there declined 10 percent during that period to 115,168, state records showed.
Harrah’s Casino in Joliet saw similar declines, seeing revenues drop by almost 11 percent to $17.8 million in June over the previous year. Admissions fell about 1 percent to 154,765 during that period.
And the Hollywood Casino in Joliet saw its revenues for June drop by 4 percent to $11.7 million from the previous June, while admissions actually ticked up by close to 3 percent to 118,376 in that timeframe, records show.
Representatives of the Des Plaines and Elgin casinos did not return phone messages Tuesday inquiring about the figures.