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Report: Aurora’s Hollywood hard-hit by Des Plaines casino

The casino floor inside Hollywood Casino AurorFriday July 13 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

The casino floor inside the Hollywood Casino in Aurora on Friday, July 13, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Aurora’s CUT
OF Casino tax

(January through June, by year)

2012 - 4,560,000 (LOW)

2011 - 5,287,000

2010 - 5,427,000

2009 - 6,380,000

2008 - 6,654,000

2007 - 7,886,000 (high)

2006 - 7,502,000

2005 - 6,543,000

2000 - 6,886,000

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Updated: August 23, 2012 9:56AM

The newest casino on the block is raking in the most money — at the cost of established Illinois casinos, including Aurora’s Hollywood Casino.

Aurora’s casino is one of a handful of state casinos whose revenues have dropped sharply since the new Des Plaines Rivers Casino opened in July 2011, according to a report released last week.

Hollywood Casino revenues dropped in June by nearly 11 percent to $12.8 million compared to June 2011 numbers. Admissions declined 10 percent during the same period to 115,168, making it the second hardest hit casino in the state after the Grand Victoria in Elgin.

The Des Plaines casino took in $42.5 million in revenues during June, more than doubling its next busiest rival, Harrah’s Casino in Joliet, which generated $17.8 million in revenues, state records showed.

“I think (Rivers is) exceeding expectations,” said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.

While Aurora Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said the decreased casino revenue leaves Aurora with less money to kick toward economic development and non-profits supported by the gaming tax, the tough break isn’t one the city didn’t prepare for.

In 2007, Aurora received $15.4 million in casino funds and revenues has steadily decreased since that time.

“City leaders anticipated a significant drop in revenue with the opening of Rivers Casino,” Ergo said. Because of the Des Plaines opening, the city budgeted a total of $8.2 million in gaming revenue for 2012. As of June, the city has received $4,560,000.

The city’s total share of gaming tax in 2011 was $10.1 million.

Illinois gaming officials said the majority of Rivers customers are coming from other Illinois casinos, not from out-of-state casinos.

City: no slots
at racetracks

A major casino-expansion bill on the table would allow for further expansion: Chicago.

Ergo said a new Windy City casino would further hurt Aurora’s bottom line, but it doesn’t top the city’s list of concerns.

Instead, Ergo said city officials are “particularly concerned” with the proposal to add slots to six racetracks across Illinois, including nearby Arlington Racetrack.

“This large scale expansion of gaming will saturate an already struggling gaming market,” Ergo said.

In addition to snatching business from Illinois’ established gaming industry, the racetrack gaming would jeopardize the health of hundreds of small businesses that benefit from the current casino climate, she said. City officials have actively opposed Senate Bill 1849 and other gambling expansion bills.

“The original intent for gaming in Illinois was to help revitalize former industrial river cities,” Ergo said. “This legislation pulls the rug out from under older, river communities across the Illinois that depend on casino revenues to help spur economic development.”

Between January and May, all Illinois casinos had $698.7 million in revenues, which represented a 22 percent increase from the $570.7 million that was brought in during the same period last year. Admissions statewide rose by 23 percent during that five-month span this year, though six of the state’s 10 casinos had fewer gambling customers in June 2012 as compared to June 2011.

Sun-Times Media contributed
to this report.

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