There's a New Empress in Joliet - NBC Chicago

There's a New Empress in Joliet

Joliet casino "Back in the Game" 3 months after fire



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    Joliet Fire Chief Joe Formhals reopens the Empress Casino with a ribbon cutting using an ax.

    Less than three months after a fire destroyed the entertainment pavilion at the Empress Casino Hotel in Joliet, thousands of gamblers were on hand Thursday morning as the casino reopened its doors.

    With signs everywhere welcoming the faithful to get "Back in the Game," the Joliet Fire Chief credited with saving the casino from complete destruction cut the ribbon with an ax.

    At that moment, roughly 1,600 people were in line anxious to enter.  Hundreds more were still in their cars, bumper to bumper, for a mile or more.  Within minutes, the two completely redone casino floors were packed.

    "We never dreamed we could get this done in 90 days," said Empress General Manager Frank Quigley.

    With the chips flying on the craps table again one could get a real feel of how much it means to Joliet, Will county and the state to have this reopen  For the City of Joliet alone, it means a million dollars per month in tax revenue. 

    Portions of the casino were "written off" during the March 20th fire that consumed portions of the complex, which caused about $340 million worth of damage and significantly affected the local and state economies.

    Penn National Gaming Inc., owner of the Empress, agreed to extend full pay and benefits to all 850 employees for 90 days.