Churchill Downs to Install Sportsbook at Rivers Casino Des Plaines

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According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the owners of the Rivers Casino Des Plaines are planning to add a new expansion to the property that includes a brand-new sportsbook. This will be the biggest expansion at the property since gambling became legal in Illinois.

Churchill Downs Inc. purchased the casino property for just over $320 million earlier this year. The plan was to expand their presence in the state of Illinois, as the only other property owned by the company in the state was the Arlington International Racecourse just outside of Chicago. Churchill Downs now controls 61% of the Rivers Casino. The company will pay about $10 million for the rights to get a license to provide sports betting at the property.

Casino Expansion

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed a massive gaming bill designed to add new streams of revenue for the state. That legislation allowed the legalization and regulation of sports betting, the addition of more gaming machines at existing casinos and racetracks, as well as the development of up to six new casinos. The largest new casino will be a complex in the Chicago area with as many as 4,000 gaming positions.

Churchill Downs is slated to try and purchase one of the six new casino licenses that will soon be available. However, the company did not specify whether they plan to bid for the aforementioned license available in Chicago. The other five sites are slated for construction in Rockford, Danville, Williamson County, and Waukegan.

In addition to the new sportsbook at the Rivers Casino, Churchill Downs will also expand its gaming floor and parking garage. Churchill Downs will pay $24 million in license fees in the year 2020 in exchange for the right to add another 800 gaming positions. That will bring the total number of gaming options at Rivers to 2,000.

As soon as the Illinois Gaming Board reviews their license application, the company could add another 200 to 250 gambling positions. The addition of another 800 positions will have to wait for the physical renovations to be completed.

Since opening in 2011, the Rivers Casino has been the highest-grossing casino in Illinois. The property generated over $440 million in revenue last year alone, with nearly $220 million coming in in the first half of this year.

Changes at Arlington International

While the expansion at the Rivers Casino is big news, Churchill Downs reportedly also has plans to tweak Arlington International Racecourse. Illinois’ aforementioned new gaming law says that racetracks in the state will be able to offer as many as 1,200 gaming positions for slot machines and table games in addition to betting on horse racing. The company plans to apply for those additional positions, but there is no word on whether there will be additional expansion at the racetrack. Regarding the potential expansions at Arlington, Churchill Downs CEO William Carstanjen said, “Timing and full scope of the plan are still being sorted out.”

Carstanjen added, “To install the full 800 positions, Rivers will need to expand the existing building footprint, construct an extension of the parking garage and invest additional capital to support the expansion. However, Rivers can install approximately 200 to 250 additional positions quickly within its existing space.”

Churchill Downs owns and operates a number of gaming sites nationwide in addition to the historic home of the Kentucky Derby. Of the new betting frontier in Illinois, Carstanjen said, “Illinois is really a puzzle because for anybody involved in the jurisdiction of trying to figure out their plans, there are things you don’t know, like what your competitors are going to do, how many positions they might apply for and precisely where some of these new casinos are going to go, particularly in the Chicagoland market.”

Churchill Downs Hotel Expansion

While the company is focused on these new projects in Illinois, there’s also work to be done at Churchill Downs itself in Kentucky. Earlier this week, Carstanjen announced plans to add a new hotel to the property, with construction expected to be completed by the time the 2021 edition of the Derby rolls around. The property will also add another 1,000 gaming machines to the Central Avenue track.

Since 2010, the track has undergone about $180 million in renovations, including the addition of a new rooftop lounge, new starting gates, new infield gates, and a new parking lot off the west side of the track.

Kevin Oldroyd

A longtime sports and gambling enthusiast, Kevin looks to present up-to-date and reliable information for readers. If he’s not writing, he’s probably watching MMA or playing blackjack. ...

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