PENN Entertainment, Inc. recently announced the hosting of a groundbreaking ceremony for the future location of the Hollywood Casino Aurora. The announcement, made on Nov. 29, 2023, at 2:45 pm Central Time, comes on the heels of news of the upcoming land-based casino replacing PENN’s famous riverboat casino, which will be close to the new location. As per the announcement, the water-based casino has been marked for closure and will be shut down and entirely replaced by the recent establishment once construction is complete.
The current Hollywood Casino Aurora is operated by PENN Entertainment and is located in Downtown Aurora. Featuring over 1,000 slot machines, 20 table games, a live poker room, and a retail sportsbook, the Hollywood Casino is set to receive a massive upgrade both in terms of the number of services offered and in terms of the quality of available games at the venue.
Located adjacent to the Chicago Premium Outlets, the $360 million regional destination aims to attract some of the eight million visitors who pass through the venue each year.
Additionally, the new casino will be conveniently located just off Interstate 88 in Aurora, Illinois. PENN Entertainment is aiming to achieve best-in-class status with its new facility. The Hollywood Casino will feature approximately 220 guest rooms, a retail sportsbook, an outdoor entertainment area, several high-quality bars and restaurants, and a full-service spa in addition to a 12,000-square-foot event center complete with meeting areas.
The facility will be supported with 1,700 parking spaces, tapping into its convenient location near Interstate 88. PENN Entertainment expects to create 700 permanent jobs at the new location in addition to 700 construction jobs. The new hires will effectively double the company’s team strength that currently works out of the water-based facility in Aurora.
To facilitate the new development in Aurora, the city transferred parcels of land to PENN Entertainment in addition to funding up to $50 million in the form of a bond issuance. The move to a land-based facility has been in the making since 2019 when a new law allowed riverboat casinos to relocate onto land.
With an estimated time to completion of 24 months, the existing Hollywood Casino Aurora located on the Fox River will continue to operate and service customers until the completion of the land-based facility. Many Chicago residents see this as a welcome move and a step ahead of riverboat casinos, which have slowly become a namesake for large structures built on the waterfront.
Jay Snowden, CEO and President of PENN Entertainment, spoke about the development of the new casino in a quote published by the company.
“We are thrilled to soon begin construction on a new, state-of-the-art Hollywood Casino Aurora. Our tremendous and long-lasting partnership with the City of Aurora has provided an opportunity to relocate our property to an ideal location that will significantly improve our offerings and further our positive economic impact on the community.”
PENN Entertainment has invited several important dignitaries to be a part of the upcoming celebrations as a part of the ceremony, including the Illinois Gaming Board, the Illinois General Assembly, the Mayor of Aurora, the City Council, labor organizations, and other local stakeholders.
This development is part of PENN Entertainment’s recently announced growth and expansion plan, which consists of new projects in Joliet, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; and Henderson, Nevada. Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc., a partner of PENN Entertainment, also announced the allocation of up to $575 million out of an $850 million budget for these four growth projects.
“We look forward to celebrating this important milestone with our team members and many key stakeholders that have helped bring us to this point,” said Greg Moore, Vice President and general Manager of Hollywood Casino Aurora. “This is an exciting start to our next chapter, and we cannot wait to welcome residents and visitors of Chicagoland to the new Hollywood Casino Aurora when completed.”
The Future Of Sports Betting in Colorado and Illinois
Sports betting was legalized in Colorado on May 1, 2020. However, it would be a while before players could start making wagers on their favorite sports. Six months after legalization, Colorado voters narrowly voted for an amendment that would allow licensed casinos to regulate sports betting activities in the state. Like Illinois, Colorado also allows mobile and retail sports betting under state laws.
Recently, ESPN Bet announced that it would be launching sports betting in 17 states, including both Illinois and Colorado. Prior to the arrival of ESPN Bet, the state enjoyed the presence of several sports betting platforms, including top names such as FanDuel Sportsbook, Caesars Sportsbook, bet365, and more.
Currently, sports betting in Colorado is regulated by the Colorado Division of Gaming. The regulatory framework enforced by the body includes rules for operators, licensing requirements, and consumer protection. Both online and retail betting is legal in Colorado, and it has remained so since 2020.
On Nov. 17, 2023, it was announced that gaming companies in Colorado were eligible to apply for a Responsible Gambling grant to help players who may be perceived to be at risk of problem gambling.
Like Colorado, sports betting has been legal in Illinois since 2019, with eight sportsbooks permitted to operate in the state. Both online and retail betting are permitted in Illinois, with several locations available to retail bettors, including the upcoming facility at the Hollywood Casino Aurora. Due to the limited number of licenses in the state and the high costs of licensing, it seems unlikely that new sportsbooks will be allowed to operate in the state.
Currently, the Hollywood Casino offers wagers on football, basketball, hockey, soccer, baseball, golf, tennis, auto racing, rugby, boxing and MMA, cricket, darts, and lacrosse. Betting markets include straight bets, parlays, match-ups, futures, props, and in-play betting. It remains to be seen how the sports betting facility in the revamped Hollywood Casino Aurora will change based on the updates that it receives.