HomeIllinois Sports Betting NewsIllinois Casinos Ringing Up Growing Numbers

Illinois Casinos Ringing Up Growing Numbers

Legal sports betting launched in Illinois more than three years ago, but it doesn't appear to have made a dent in the state's casino industry revenues.

Image: IMAGO / Zoonar

In fact, July 2023’s tally of $133.3 million for the state’s casinos was the largest such figure since March 2014 ($138.7 million).

And while August couldn’t quite match that lofty July figure, the Illinois Gaming Board has just reported that in September, the 15 casinos got a bit closer with $132.1 million in revenue for the month.

It’s worth noting that the new temporary Bally’s casino in Chicago, at the site of the former Medinah Temple, was open for only the last three weeks of the month. With $6.7 million recorded in just three weeks, that suggests that a full month of “action” at the site would have meant September – not July – ranks as the top revenue-producing month in almost a decade.

In just those three weeks, Bally’s already ranked 7th in the state’s casino revenue competition.

How Far can Bally’s Climb?

With a pro-rated estimate of $9 million in the first month, Bally’s instantly has gotten within a superior pace to Hollywood Casino Joliet ($7.6 million), a temporary casino in Waukegan called American Place ($7.8 million), and Hollywood Casino Aurora ($8.3 million).

Harrah’s Joliet ($10.9 million) and Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin ($12.4 million) also may not maintain their respective edges on Bally’s Chicago just through the rest of 2023.

That leaves only one long-term challenge for Bally’s – Rivers Casino in the northern Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, near O’Hare International Airport and adjacent to the busy Tri-State Tollway. That site has been open since 2011, and its $41.5 million in September revenue represents about 30% of the entire Illinois casino market.

Rivers Casino, which has 1,500 slot machines and more than 70 table game options, is managed by minority owner Rush Street Gaming as assigned by majority owner Churchill Downs – which took over in 2019.

When Will Bally’s Take Over the Top Spot?

With such a sizable lead over Bally’s, Rivers Casino figures to be No. 1 for at least a couple of years – meaning until Bally’s $1.7 billion permanent casino opens as soon as 2026.

The challenge for Rivers Casino is that the permanent site for Bally’s – at the site of the former Chicago Tribune Publishing Center at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street – is scheduled to feature 3,400 slot machines and 175 table games as well as a 3,000-seat entertainment center and a 500-room hotel.

Both the slot machine and table games figures are more than double the amount at Rivers Casino.

Perhaps even more daunting for Rivers is that the permanent casino site is only about 15 miles to the southeast of Rivers. As marketplace awareness of the existence of the first casino within the Chicago city limits grows, how many gamblers will prefer the larger Bally’s facility over Rivers?

One consolation for Rivers is that the temporary Bally’s casino that opened its doors last month – also about 15 miles away – has only about 800 slot machines and 55 table games, making it smaller than the Rivers footprint.

The other casinos that could lose at least some business to Bally’s in the coming years are the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, American Place in Waukegan, and Hollywood Casino Aurora, as all three sites are about 40 miles away from the planned Bally’s site.

But American Place’s permanent, $375 million casino, with a planned 2025 opening, would feature 1,640 slot machines and 100 gaming tables that could dissuade the locals from making very many “night out on the town” visits to Bally’s Chicago.

The Rest of the Illinois Casino Numbers

Placing 8th in September – right in the middle of the state’s rankings – was DraftKings Casino Queen, located on the Mississippi River in East St. Louis. Rounding out the top 10 were Hard Rock Casino Rockford ($5.7 million, also at a temporary site) and Harrah’s Metropolis Casino ($5.3 million) at the Kentucky and Tennessee borders.

Next up were Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel ($5.2 million), Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria ($4.9 million), Golden Nugget Danville Casino ($3.3 million), Argosy Casino Alton (the state’s oldest casino, $3 million), and finally Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort in Carterville ($2.9 million).

The consolation for Walker’s Bluff investors is that the casino just opened in August, so there is plenty of room for growth. Hard Rock Casino Rockford, American Place Casino in Waukegan, and Golden Nugget Danville Casino also have just opened in the past 24 months.

What’s next? The only remaining new casino approved so far and under construction is Wind Creek Chicago Southland in the villages of Homewood and East Hazel Crest, about 30 miles south of the Bally’s Chicago permanent location.

That tribal casino had been scheduled for a Jan. 1, 2025, grand opening, but the operator just announced it had obtained a $290 million loan that should move up the opening date to sometime in fall 2024.

State lawmakers likely will wait a few years to gain data on how the Illinois casino industry as a whole is faring before considering adding still more casinos.

In 2022, Illinois casinos ranked 11th in the U.S. in revenue at $2.1 billion, while it ranks 6th among states in population with 11.7 million residents according to the U.S. census. That suggests that more expansion of the state’s casino industry may be sustainable.

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