Joliet Casinos Losing Business to Rivers - NBC Chicago

Joliet Casinos Losing Business to Rivers

Joliet official: "We're near the saturation point"



    Joliet Casinos Losing Business to Rivers
    Onasis Odelmo

    Business at southwest suburban Joliet’s two casinos took a big hit in August because of competition from the new Rivers Casino.

    August revenues were down nearly 16 percent at Harrah’s Joliet and more than 8 percent at Hollywood Casino Joliet.

    It was the first full month of business for Rivers Casino, which opened in Des Plaines in late July. The casino generated $34 million worth of gambling business.

    All but one of the other nine casinos in Illinois saw a drop in revenue from August 2010, but Rivers Casino did so much business that statewide casino revenues were up 18 percent to nearly $137 million.

    Still, Joliet City Manager Thomas Thanas, pointing to the drop in business at other riverboats, said the August numbers show that one more casino “cannibalizes” the existing business.

    “It really confirms that we’re near the saturation point in terms of casino outlets,” Thanas said. “It’s moving existing dollars around.”

    The biggest drop in business was at Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, the closest casino to Des Plaines. August revenues were down 24 percent at $18.5 million. Grand Victoria had been the biggest money-maker in Illinois before Rivers opened.

    Harrah’s Joliet generated $17 million, down from $20.2 million in August 2010 and $18.9 million in July. Hollywood Casino Joliet generated $11.2 million, down from $12.2 million in August 2010 and $13 million in July.

    The city of Joliet is gauging the impact of Rivers Casino because of the potential loss in local casino tax dollars.

    Joliet casino taxes for August were $1.7 million, compared to $1.9 million in August 2010.

    The impact on city revenues in August was worse than the city projected. But so far this year, city casino taxes have exceeded expectations as budget makers braced for the combined impact of a weak economy and more competition in the marketplace.

    “For the month, we were about $135,000 short (of projections),” said Kenneth Mihelich, the city’s budget director. “For the year, we’re still about $500,000 to the good.”

    Mihelich said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the city would end the year with more casino tax dollars than predicted in its budget.

    Joliet officials, however, also are worried about pending legislation that would add new casinos in Chicago and elsewhere, while also adding slot machines at horse racetracks.

    “I think what the numbers are showing is that the new business merely cannibalizes the existing market and just shifts dollars from one casino in the state to another,” Thanas said.