Hollywood Casino Aurora Begins Construction of $360M Resort

Posted on: November 28, 2023, 11:38h. 

Last updated on: November 28, 2023, 01:03h.

Hollywood Casino Aurora officials say ground will be broken Wednesday, November 29, on the property’s forthcoming brick-and-mortar resort. The $360 million development comes more than four years after lawmakers in Illinois agreed to allow riverboats to move inland.

Hollywood Casino Aurora Penn Entertainment
An artist’s rending of the forthcoming $360 million Hollywood Casino Aurora. Penn Entertainment, which operates the current riverboat, and Gaming and Leisure Properties, which owns the property, are behind the brick-and-mortar project. (Image: Penn Entertainment)

Hollywood Aurora operator Penn Entertainment told Tuesday that a groundbreaking ceremony will be held tomorrow at 2:45 pm CT. The event will mark the beginning of the construction project, which is expected to take 24 months to complete.

“We are thrilled to soon begin construction on a new, state-of-the-art Hollywood Casino Aurora,” said Jay Snowden, Penn Entertainment CEO and president.

Hollywood Casino Aurora is a riverboat gaming destination that opened in June 1993. The casino opened as two riverboat vessels, but was later replaced by a 70,000-square-foot floating, half-circle, permanently moored structure.

Through October, Hollywood Casino Aurora has generated gross gaming revenue (GGR) of approximately $81.9 million. That ranks fourth year-to-date among the state’s 15 casinos.

Resort Development

In 2019, Illinois lawmakers agreed to allow casinos to move inland. Penn Entertainment in October 2022 announced its intentions to build a new land-based casino in Aurora to replace the aging floating facility.

That same month, Penn and its primary landowner, Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. (GLPI) agreed to terms regarding the financing of a brick-and-mortar development in Aurora. GLPI agreed to bankroll $225 million to relocate Hollywood Casino Aurora inland. The riverboat currently floats in the Fox River. GLPI owns the physical assets of Hollywood Aurora and leases the casino’s operations to Penn.

The permanent resort site is about 3.5 miles northeast adjacent to the Chicago Premium Outlets. The shopping complex, Penn Entertainment says, attracts more than eight million visitors annually.

Penn Entertainment will finance the remaining $135 million, with $50 million funded through bonds issued by the City of 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,” Snowden added.

The planned casino resort includes a casino floor with 1,200 gaming positions, inclusive of slot machines and table game chairs. A retail sportsbook will be accompanied by several bars and restaurants.

As for the resort, an on-site hotel will offer 220 guest rooms, a full-service spa, and 12,000 square feet of convention and event space. Approximately 1,700 parking spaces are included.

Penn Entertainment says the resort will result in 700 permanent jobs, while construction is expected to create 700 temporary positions. Hollywood Casino Aurora will continue operating as a riverboat during the construction of the land-based destination.

Penn Spending Spree

Penn Entertainment’s Hollywood Casino Aurora is part of the company’s $850 million investment overhaul of four casinos. In addition to Aurora, Penn, with $575 million in financial support from GLPI, is redeveloping and/or expanding Hollywood Casino Columbus in Ohio, M Resort south of Las Vegas in Henderson, and Hollywood Casino Joliet in Illinois.

Penn additionally announced in August that it would spend $1.5 billion to use the ESPN brand in its new sports betting business. The ESPN Bet sportsbook went live in 17 states earlier this month. Indiana is one of those 17 states. ESPN Bet gained more than 1.1 million downloads during its first week in operation.

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