Rivers Casino in Des Plaines has begun renovations to its existing space, company officials said Thursday, ahead of further expansion plans being made in the wake of the new state gambling law.
The casino -- the state's largest and most lucrative -- is applying for a sports betting license and already started work to convert its Cube lounge to an official sportsbook that could open by the end of the year, said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc.
Churchill acquired a majority interest in the casino in March.
But the timing of when sports fans will get to place their first bets depends on getting final approvals from the Illinois Gaming Board, Carstanjen said Thursday morning during a quarterly earnings call with investors.
Rivers also aims to expand from 1,200 gambling positions to 2,000, which is permitted under the massive gambling expansion package approved by lawmakers in June. Initial plans call for adding 115 slot machines and eight table games to the existing single-level, 44,000-square-foot gambling floor by the end of the year, pending gaming board approval, Carstanjen said.
While casino officials will explore adding incremental gambling positions to the existing footprint, larger plans are being drawn up for a casino expansion that would have space for more slots, games and related amenities, Carstanjen said.
To prepare for the larger casino, construction is set to begin in early November on a $24 million expansion of the parking garage, expected to be finished by next July.
"We have very strong views and plans around what we want to see happen there, but we can't determine regulatory approval for our expansion plan," Carstanjen told industry analysts during the conference call. "I think the state is incented to move the process along. I think the state wants to see more casinos in the market. I think the state wants to see a maximization of income from gaming. And I think they'll work with all delivered speed."
Rivers, which opened in 2011, produces more revenue than any other casino in Illinois. It generated $440 million in adjusted gross receipts in fiscal year 2019, while all nine other casinos in the state experienced revenue declines, according to a September state wagering report.
Churchill, owner of its namesake racetrack in Kentucky and Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, obtained a 61% stake in Rivers in March. Churchill and Rivers co-owner Rush Street Gaming have also issued a joint bid for a new casino in Waukegan.