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Harrah's Celebrating 15 Years in Joliet

16 July 2008

It's a landmark year for Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel as the property celebrates 15 years of operation in the Southland of the greater Chicago area.

"May was our actual anniversary, and we celebrated with a huge outdoor event on the 15th," said Darren VanDover, senior vice-president and general manager. "We had a great turnout, and the guests really enjoyed both the Flying Elvi and the entertainment throughout the day. We had a 'cake dig' for cash in a 15-foot by 10-foot cake and the energy level skyrocketed. Guests literally rushed the stage to watch the action. It was a really fun day."

Harrah's Joliet was the first riverboat casino to be developed by Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. It was only the company's seventh gaming property and its first outside of the states of Nevada and New Jersey.

Today, the gaming giant operates 36 casinos under 13 different brands in 12 states and three foreign countries. It also is owner of the World Series of Poker and Total Rewards, the most recognized and powerful marketing machine in the industry.

"We've grown so much since then," VanDover said. "We now have about 1,200 employees, 66 of whom have been with us since the day we opened."

The operation has been expanded through the years to include a 204-room luxury hotel connected to a large pavilion that is home to three restaurants, Stage 151 for live entertainment, two retail outlets and a licensed Starbucks.

"In April we opened our Smoker's Club," VanDover noted. "It has had a fantastic reception. Guests really like the fact that it is close to the gaming floor and protects them from the elements."

The marketing might of Harrah's Entertainment is fueled by Total Rewards, which allows gaming enthusiasts to use one player's card at all properties the company owns and redeem the equity accrued through the use of the cards at Harrah's owned casinos nationwide.

Harrah's has experimented with direct mail cross-marketing of its Harrah's Joliet and Horseshoe Hammond destinations, an initiative that could intensify later this summer when a new $485-million casino is unveiled in Hammond.

"Horseshoe Hammond is our 'sister' property and we support each other in the market," VanDover revealed. "While we have different target audiences, it's an advantage to all of our customers because there is so much to offer between the two properties.

"This fall, we'll be running a TV and radio campaign featuring the reciprocal benefits of our Total Rewards program. Guests can play at Harrah's Joliet using their Total Rewards card to earn Reward Credits, and then they can redeem the Reward Credits for merchandise, dinner or entertainment and more at Horseshoe.

"Between now and 2009, we're looking at making some capital improvements to our hotel and adding a retail outlet. So, we're taking advantage of the opportunities that are out there and looking forward to many more successful years to come."

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp