Illinois: Aurora City Council zoning committee recommends preliminary plans for $360M Hollywood Casino

An Aurora City Council committee in Illinois has unanimously recommended preliminary plans for the proposed Hollywood Casino Aurora, which is set to be constructed on the city’s northeast side.

The 18.68-acre site, situated between Farnsworth Avenue, Bilter and Church roads, and Interstate 88, had its plans and some rezoning unanimously recommended by Aldermen on the Building, Zoning and Economic Development Committee. The City Council Committee of the Whole is scheduled to review the plans next in their upcoming meeting on Tuesday evening.

Greg Moore, General Manager of Hollywood Casino, expressed the necessity of the new development for Penn Entertainment, Hollywood’s parent company, to remain competitive in Illinois amidst increasing competition from other casinos, reports Chicago Tribune.

Moore stated: “We’ve seen gaming revenue decrease and decrease and decrease. This new location is by far superior to where we are now.”

Hollywood Casino Aurora's current location

The project became possible after 2019 state legislation removed the requirement for casinos to be located along a river, a change advocated by the city of Aurora. The city assisted by acquiring and demolishing two motels to provide Hollywood with a new location, as the casino had been operating in downtown Aurora since 1993.

The new casino resort is expected to feature 220 hotel rooms, 1,200 gaming positions, a Barstool Sportsbook, an events center, an outdoor entertainment area, and various restaurants including a casual steakhouse and an Asian noodle bar. The site will provide 1,600 parking spaces, with the potential for an additional 500 spaces if required.

Michael Carroll, Vice President of Construction with Penn Entertainment, highlighted the focus on catering to non-gaming customers. The casino will have two entrances, one off Farnsworth and another along Bilter Road, allowing access to entertainment areas without passing through the gaming or hotel sections.

Hollywood Casino anticipates doubling its current number of permanent jobs from 350 to 700, while the project is estimated to create approximately 700 construction jobs.

The city of Aurora has commissioned traffic studies for the area surrounding the new casino resort. Plans include expanding Bilter Road from two lanes to four lanes and eventually widening Farnsworth Avenue to six lanes between Butterfield Road and I-88. The road work is expected to be substantially completed by 2025, prior to the casino’s opening.

A redevelopment agreement between the city and Penn Entertainment involves the city providing the land and contributing $50 million to the casino, which will be repaid. The city plans to pass $58 million in general obligation bonds, with the bond payments tied to a tax increment financing district on the casino property. It is estimated that the land will generate approximately $5.5 million in property taxes annually to cover the bond payments.