Penn Breaks Ground on New Hollywood Casino Projects in Illinois and Ohio

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Dan Michalski

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Dan Michalski

News Writer

Last Updated on 1st December 2023, 06:56 PM

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Penn Breaks Ground on New Hollywood Casino Projects in Illinois and Ohio

Executives from Penn Entertainment and Hollywood Casinos met Wednesday with local elected officials and state gaming authorities in Aurora, Illinois, to break ground for a new land-based casino in the Chicago suburb.

Members of the Illinois Gaming Board, Illinois General Assembly, the Mayor of Aurora and the City Council as well as labor organizations participated in the ceremonial shoveling. 

This was the second such groundbreaking at a midwestern Hollywood Casinos property this week, and shows Penn and Hollywood ready to put expansion investments to work. 

The $360 million land-based casino will feature a gaming floor with 900 slots and 50 live table games, a baccarat room, a poker room, and an ESPN sportsbook. All will be attached to a 220-room hotel with a full-service spa, multiple bars and restaurants, a 12,000-square-foot events center and an outdoor entertainment facility.

(Images: All courtesy of Hollywood Casino Aurora)

rendering hollywood casino aurora

Rendering of the new land-based Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Illinois, which will replace the current riverboat casino in late 2025 or early ’26.

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

groundbreaking hollywood casino aurora

It was a festive, high-fivin’, back-slappin’ kinda shindig (with gift bags!) at the groundbreaking ceremony for Penn Entertainment’s new Hollywood Casino Aurora, where people were excited to kick off a $360 million project.

groundbreaking hollywood casino aurora

It was the kind of event where public officials gathered for day-drinking.

Crawling Ashore

The new casino will replace the current Hollywood Casino, which has been operating on the Fox River in downtown Aurora since 1993. 

At the time, the casino consisted of two boats, City of Lights I and II, and patrons had to buy tickets on “cruises” that traveled 50 feet up the Fox River. 

In 2002 the law changed, allowing casino boats to stay docked permanently, but they still had to be floating.

Then in 2019, a new gambling expansion law in Illinois legalized sports betting and created licenses for new casinos in and around Chicago. It also permitted the state’s 10 riverboat casinos to finally step foot firmly on land. 

rendering hollywood casino aurora circa 1993

The original rendering of the current Hollywood Casino Aurora, where this author may or may not have skipped classes as an undergrad to study gambling when it opened in 1993.

The current parked riverboat in Aurora will remain open while the new land-based facility is under construction. According to Penn, it will take “approximately 24 months” to complete. 

The company says the project will bring to the city 700 construction jobs and 700 permanent jobs, nearly doubling the current staff size at Hollywood Casino Aurora.

“This is an exciting start to our next chapter,” said Greg Moore, Hollywood Casino Aurora vice president and general manager.

Expansion on Land and Online

The new Aurora casino is part of an $850 million investment by Penn in land-based casino properties.

Just down the same Fox River, Penn also plans to spend $185 million to replace the riverboat Hollywood Casino Joliet with a land-based facility. Though a date hasn’t been announced, construction is supposed to begin before the end of 2023.

In Ohio, the Hollywood Casino Columbus broke ground on Tuesday on a $100 million project adding a 180-room hotel to the land-based casino property. 

And on Monday, the M Resort in Henderson, Nevada, just south of Las Vegas, will hold a press conference. The Penn-operated property is expected to update the public on intentions to break ground on a second tower, costing $206 million and adding 384 rooms, to bring the total up 774.

groundbreaking hollywood casino aurora

A very posed, PR-looking photo from the groundbreaking, but also kinda real, and a good reminder of Penn Entertainment’s current casino expansion initiatives.

Penn’s expansion mindset for land-based casinos coincides with a licensing deal with ESPN, signed in August. 

In a multiplatform branding, content, and betting alliance, Penn is paying $1.5 billion over 10 years to use the ESPN Bet trademark at its live casino properties in 16 states, and online in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia. 

Meet The Author

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Dan Michalski
Dan Michalski
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Dan Michalski is a longtime journalist based in Las Vegas with nearly 20 years as a writer and editor covering poker, casino gaming and sports betting. As founder of Pokerati and an award-winning blogger, podcaster and news reporter, Dan has worked tirelessly to elevate the standards of journalism in gaming media. He also has served as a gaming industry consultant and holds advanced certificates in gaming regulation from UNLV. When not thinking about media and casinos, he can be found on the tennis courts, where he has captained two teams to USTA national championships, and one to second place.

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