Hollywood Aurora and Hollywood Joliet are located on the banks of the Fox River, physically distant from a limited-access highway. Although these operations are now land-based casino complexes, they had their roots in cruising “riverboats” that moved up and down the river. Gaming industry data shows that the best location for a casino hospitality property is a space close to a major highway.
To enable the creation of new permanent casino positions and trade construction jobs, the Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation in May 2019 to allow the holders of established “riverboat” casino licenses, including Hollywood, to move away from their riverfront locations to spaces better suited to revenue maximization. The owner of the Hollywood brand, Penn Entertainment, responded to the 2019 law by putting together a detailed plan to locate more optimal Aurora and Joliet locations, to build new casino-hospitality complexes in both metro areas. Under the strict regulations imposed by Illinois law on casinos operating in-state, it was this Penn Entertainment planning structure that was approved by the Illinois Gaming Board this week. The actual construction of the new casino complexes will come before the Board in another approval application cycle at a later date.