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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Hollywood Casino Expansion Is Underway

17 April 2001

The legalization of dockside gambling in Illinois in the summer of 1999 sounded the beginning of the end for "seaworthy" gambling vessels. Talk of plans to construct permanently docked "gambling barges" was rampant among all the license holders. That talk has turned into action for the Hollywood Casino Aurora with the late February announcement that construction has begun on a $75 million expansion project that is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2002.

The new floating barge will encompass 95,000 square feet of floor space, replacing the property's existing riverboats which have a combined 29,500 square feet of gaming space spread out on eight floors of the City of Lights I and City of Lights II. The first floor of the barge will have a whopping 53,000 square feet of gaming space.

Under existing laws, riverboat casino destinations in Illinois are restricted to a total of 1,200 gaming positions. That means there'll be plenty of room to roam in Hollywood's new casino barge until the law is changed, and I'm betting that it will be. There is no restriction on the number of gaming positions allowed in Indiana riverboat casinos.

In addition to more casino floor space, the property will include a new restaurant, entertainment lounge, and an expansion of the existing Epic Buffet.

The Hollywood announcement comes as great news for the Chicago-area riverboat casino gambling market. The City of Lights II, the smaller of the property's two existing vessels, is by far the most unattractive and inadequate boat in the state. Its sister ship, the City of Lights I, has been the standard bearer ever since it was enlarged some years ago.

The barge will be connected to the property's existing pavilion, creating a land-based experience. The 42,000 square foot second level will feature views of the 41-foot atrium in the center of the casino and will house a new 227-seat restaurant and a new entertainment lounge.

For fans of the Hollywood Aurora's Epic Buffet, you're going to love the improvements when the barge is in place. Plans call for a state-of-the-art buffet that will be comparable to the best you'd find in Las Vegas, plus the seating capacity will be increased by 40 percent.

Edward T. Pratt III, president and chief operating officer of Hollywood Casino Corporation, promises that the new barge will be "the largest and highest quality gaming and entertainment facility in the market".

The Hollywood Casino's multi-million dollar collection of movie memorabilia and artifacts, a fascinating dimension that gives the property a unique quality, will remain the theme of the new barge.

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