Chicago Casino Owner Plans Des Plaines Expansion, License

Chicago Casino Owner Plans Des Plaines Expansion, License

The new majority owner of Rivers Casino intends to expand the Des Plaines casino facility and apply for one of the six new casino licenses offered under the state’s newly expanded Illinois gaming program, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Churchill Downs completed its $407 million purchase of Rivers Casino’s parent company, Midwest Gaming, earlier this year, according to a company release. The company seems to be wasting no time in seeking to expand gaming operations in Illinois to full capacity.

Rivers Casino is already the state’s largest casino, and a popular destination for Chicago area residents and visitors. The casino is in Des Plaines, a suburb just north of Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport.

Churchill Downs Wasting No Time

During a recent conference call with shareholders, according to a report, CEO Bill Carstanjen said Rivers Casino has already notified the Illinois Gaming Board that it intends to expand the 1,200 gaming positions it currently offers at the Des Plaines casino to the full 2,000 allowable under new state law.

The expansion will require new construction at the site, but Carstanjen said he expects some of that new space might be handled by restructuring the current layout of the casino.

Carstanjen also said the parking garage is expected to be extended, and that up to 250 additional gaming positions could quickly be created onsite so long as the company receives all the necessary approvals from government officials.

“Rivers will be working with the Illinois Gaming Board to ascertain what is permissible and to scope out the timing and full capital plan,” Carstanjen said.

Additionally, Rivers said the company will seek to invest in the expansion through “utilizing the available debt capacity at the Rivers level or through additional debt raised at the Rivers level.”

Sports Wagering Big Part of Plan

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a sports betting bill into law in June which greatly expanded gaming operations in the state by allowing both online and in-person sports wagers. Carstanjen said Rivers Casino is well positioned to be at the forefront of the new sports betting market in the state.

“Rivers will also pay the $10 million licensing fee in early 2020 to obtain an Illinois sports wagering license and will construct the sportsbook within its existing footprint,” Carstanjen said. “All of this is very, very exciting.”

Moreover, Rivers Casino is expected to offer sports betting both online and in-person. That should help give the company a leg up on the competition, as Illinois' sports betting bill limits sportsbooks offering online wagering menus to only those with ties to brick-and-mortar locations such as Rivers Casino.

“We will participate in this new market through our 61% ownership of Rivers, and certainly, we have the option to do so separately through our horse racing licenses,” Carstanjen said. "We will announce our plans soon.”

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Kelsey McCarson, a veteran sports journalist who also covers boxing and MMA, writes about gambling and online casino news for

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