Illinois Gaming Board Renews Harrah’s Joliet Casino License

September IGB 2023 meeting

The Illinois Gaming Board put a bow on a busy period of administrative casino gaming work Tuesday when it unanimously approved renewing the license for Harrah’s Joliet through September 2027.

The 4-0 vote came after officials from the casino, led by Senior Vice President Rachel Bartolini, made a presentation highlighting its achievements from the prior four-year period, which included navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrah’s Joliet generated $530 million in casino revenue in that span, with the state receiving $105 million in tax revenue.

The license renewal came after a three-month stretch in which three casinos opened in Illinois, raising the number in the state to 15. Golden Nugget in Danville opened its permanent facility in late May and has generated $8.7 million in adjusted gross revenue in its first 94 days of operation through August. Walker’s Bluff Casino in Williamson County opened in late August and reported more than $830,000 in AGR in its first nine days.

Those were prelude to the biggest attraction: Bally’s opening its temporary casino at Medinah Temple in downtown Chicago last Saturday. IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter noted the process for Bally’s to go from “preliminary suitable” in June to accepting wagers took place in less than three months, and that the $135 million in upfront fees Bally’s will pay in the 30-day period after opening will go into the Rebuild Illinois Fund for infrastructure.

Five of the six locations that were granted new casino licenses in the 2019 gaming expansion act Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law now have live gaming. The sixth, a venue to be operated by Wind Creek in suburban Cook County, is under construction and targeting an early 2025 opening for a permanent venue.

Harrah’s touts diversity, infrastructure

Harrah’s Director of Marketing Alex Boryszewski noted that the Joliet property’s 500-strong workforce exceeded minimum diversity requirements, with 52% of the staff consisting of women and 45% being minorities. Boryszewski also talked of an experienced workforce, as 41% of staffers have at least 15 years of service and 10% have reached or will shortly reach 30 years of tenure.

Harrah’s committed to capital spending during its previous licensing period and the upcoming one. It spent $6 million in improvements from 2019-22, with $2 million dedicated to slot upgrades and another $2 million to surveillance. Boryszewski said Harrah’s plans to spend another $7 million in improvements over the next 18 to 24 months.

The casino spent $51 million on goods and services from 2019-22, with 58% of that total going to Illinois-based vendors. Harrah’s also spent $5.6 million with what it called “diverse” vendors, which accounted for 40% of its expenses for non-exempt vendor spending — nearly double the 23% that the IGB requires of casino licensees.

IGB moves to implement SB 1462 ahead of schedule

The IGB unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to give Fruchter authority to issue temporary identification badges for gaming employees who applied for non-gaming positions under SB 1462.

That bill, passed by the state Senate in March and the House in May, allows people with felony convictions to apply for non-gaming positions at casinos in hospitality, maintenance, and any other area that “preserves the integrity of gaming,” but does not officially take effect until Jan. 1.

IGB Chairman Charles Schmadeke offered strong support of the resolution, calling it “a wonderful opportunity to give otherwise qualified people an opportunity to be in this industry.”

An amendment to SB 1462 prior to House concurrence gives the IGB discretion to review each potential licensee and “refuse an occupational license to any person who has a background that poses a threat to the public interests of the State or to the security and integrity of gaming.”

Photo: Getty Images

Author: Peter Griffin