In Joliet, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, there is a riverboat casino called Harrah’s Joliet, which is owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment. There are 1,138 slot machines, 204 hotel rooms, and four restaurants at the casino.
It was in 1990 that the city launched a downtown revitalization project known as Joliet City Center. According to the plan, a larger emphasis should be placed on the Des Plaines riverfront, which would include the construction of a slip for riverboat gambling, which had been approved by the state earlier that year. The city of Joliet and Harrah’s Entertainment, which operates casinos in Nevada and Atlantic City, had initial conversations about a gaming license, but it was Missouri hotel entrepreneur John Q. Hammons who pressed forward and was awarded the license. After that, Hammons brought in Harrah’s to run the business and possess an 80 percent stake in it. However, the Illinois Gaming Board expressed worry that Hammons was “selling” the license as a result of his use of his own money and outside funding sources instead of Harrah’s sponsorship. As a result, Hammons used his own money and outside funding sources instead.
It was on May 4, 1993, when Harrah’s Joliet opened its first boat, a 210-foot yacht named the Northern Star, which had 500 slot machines and 40 table games.
The Southern Star, a second vessel with a more typical paddle boat appearance, was added to the fleet the following January.
In 1999, a hotel with 204 rooms on 11 stories was built for a total of $29 million.
Following a change in state law that allowed riverboat casinos to remain permanently docked rather than cruising every two hours, Harrah’s replaced its boats in 2001 with two joined barges, each containing 40,000 square feet of gaming space with 1,138 slot machines and 31 table games, according to the company.
During a corporate spin-off, Caesars Entertainment (previously Harrah’s) transferred its 80 percent ownership investment in the hotel to Vici Properties. Caesars Entertainment continued to operate Harrah’s Joliet under a lease agreement with the property until October 2017.
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