Go all in

Up the ante on your casino experience at local betting and entertainment venues

It’s wintertime in the Chicago area, and you’ve decided that you need a little excitement to brighten your mood. Maybe a little blackjack, a few hands of poker or a few pulls of the slot machine are what you need to get the adrenaline pumping.

But choosing where to go can be daunting - there’s a wide range of casinos within a short drive of the Chicago area, including several right here in the suburbs. You might be ready to gamble some cash, but you don’t want to gamble with your time. Fear not, here’s a rundown of nine Midwest casinos and what they have to offer.

Hollywood Casino Aurora
1 W. New York St. Bridge, Aurora

Nestled along the Fox River in the Kane County is Hollywood Casino Aurora. This gambling palace boasts “more than 1,000 of the hottest slots around.” These machines have a range of prices for a chance at victory, ranging from penny slots up to $100. There’s also a poker room open seven days of the week, fully staffed and offering a “Bad Beat Jackpot.” Other table games include craps, blackjack, roulette, mini-baccarat and more.

You’re going to get hungry. But there’s no need to go hunting for offsite fare when Hollywood Casino Aurora offers three different tiers of restaurant experiences. At Fairbanks Steakhouse on the fourth floor, the “ambiance is 1930s classic Hollywood, but the culinary experience is fine dining.” If you really want the best bang for your buck, the Epic Buffet offers Asian, Italian and American fare. And for those in a rush, there’s the Take Two Deli. The Deli and Buffet are both located on the casino floor.

There’s live entertainment most weekends at the Center Stage, featuring local and touring musicians who play their trade for the casino’s patrons.

For frequent guests, the “Marquee Rewards” program gives discounts on dining and accommodations, entry into promotions, invitations to special events and more. The program is also valid at Hollywood Casino Joliet, plus other properties in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

Hollywood Casino Joliet
777 Hollywood Blvd., Joliet

One of two casinos in this south suburban city, Hollywood Casino Joliet offers patrons an associated hotel and RV park for guests who want to stay for multiple days.

Inside the recently remodeled casino, you’ll find 50,000 square feet of gaming, food and entertainment. Visitors can take advantage of more than 1,100 video slots, reel slots and progressive slots. Video poker is a popular offering, and table game action includes blackjack, craps, roulette, and more across some 20 tables.

When hunger pangs hit, you can head over to the Final Cut Steakhouse for “premium and prime selections of beef to succulent seafood and an incredible selection of wine.” The Epic Buffet offers carving station favorites, pizzas, fried chicken, seafood, pasta, salads, desserts and more. The 99 Hops House gives a casual dining experience with wings, flat breads, burgers and more than 70 beer selections, not to mention an 80-foot TV for sporting events.

The Hollywood Casino Joliet Hotel & RV Park just across the street offers guests 100 hotel rooms and 80 RV sites. Amenities include complimentary hot breakfast and free WiFi, as well as more than 4,000 square feet of event space available for groups of 5 to 200.

Harrah’s Joliet
151 N. Joliet St., Joliet

Owned by the same group that runs the famous Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Joliet opened in 1993 as a riverboat casino on the Des Plaines. The site now features a barge built in 2001 and a hotel with more than 200 rooms.

The casino floor, which was renovated just a few years ago, has a plethora of gaming options, with more than 1,100 slot machines. The nearly three dozen table games include blackjack, craps, roulette, Ultimate Texas Hold’em and more, and video poker also is available. A World Series of Poker branded live poker room completes the gaming offerings.

When it’s time for a meal, head over to The Reserve Steakhouse, which offers “select cut steaks, burgers and meatloaf ... alongside pasta dishes and traditional steak and seafood entrees.” Flavors The Buffet satisfies hungry appetites with barbecue, house-made pizza, stir-fry and desserts. The Cross Street Grill’s menu includes burgers, sandwiches, tacos and full entrees.

The hotel includes an event center with more than 6,000 square feet of space that can accommodate groups up to 800. With 2018 marking Harrah’s Joliet’s 25th anniversary, slot machine upgrades are underway and anniversary celebrations will no doubt be forthcoming.

Grand Victoria
Casino Elgin
250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin

Another venue from which one can admire the beauty of the Fox River in Kane County, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin touts its award-winning restaurant and smartphone app experience among the features that set it apart from competitors.

According to GVC’s website, the casino offers “traditional favorites, to the newest themes like Cirque Du Soleil from Bally and Treasure Falls, along with many video poker games.” High Limit provides a chance to win progressive jackpots from $112,000 to $723,000. Table games include the standard blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and more.

The Bravo Poker Live Mobile App is put forth as a way to gain access to GVC’s live poker room with “ground-breaking new features” on IoS and Android devices.

If you’re feeling peckish, the Prime Burgerhouse lives up to its name with a variety of meaty offerings. Buckinghams Steakhouse & Lounge provides a fine dining option, and the Indulge Show Kitchen Buffet is billed as “a one-of-a-kind experience with six micro-restaurants in one.” Crave Deli offers food on the fly 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

GVS also offers banquet facilities able to accomodate 30 to 250 guests and extensive packages for corporate functions, reunions, weddings and more.

Rivers Casino - Des Plaines
3000 S. River Road, Des Plaines

Riverboat gambling harks back to a wilder time in the Midwest, so the name “Rivers Casino” is a great moniker to evoke that history.

Launched in 2011, Rivers Casino is among the newest casinos in Illinois. Like many others, it has 1,000 slot machines in denominations from a penny to $100. Slot games offered include Wheel of Fortune, Lucky 88, Wonder 4, Brazil and Quick Hit. There’s also plenty of table games, including blackjack, roulette, craps and poker.

If you seek a wide array of food options, you’ve come to the right place. Rivers Casino has seven - yes, seven - different eateries on its premises:

• Canopy Buffet offers salads, soups, pizza, Italian food, carving stations and more.

• Coffee Spot fulfills your caffeine cravings and sells sandwiches and homemade pastries and desserts.

• Cube offers a nightclub scene with a full bar and 20 flatscreen TVs. Burgers and appetizers make up the menu.

• Flipt is a casual grill featuring specialty sandwiches and burgers.

• Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House serves up Gibsons Prime Angus Beef, lobster tails, king crab legs, fresh fish and seafood, salads and sandwiches and an extensive wine list.

• Lotus is a cocktail lounge in the center of the casino floor

• Mian’s fare is labeled as “authentic quick-service Asian cuisine.”

House DJs perform at Lotus on Fridays and Saturdays, and Cube offers live entertainment Thursday through Sunday.

Jumer’s Casino
777 Jumers Drive, Rock Island

If you’re inclined to head a bit further afield, Jumer’s in Rock Island makes customer service its point of differentiation. Opened in 1992, the former riverboat casino is now land-based and features a hotel, according to Bill Renk, public relations manager.

You’ll find slot machines and table games galore in Jumer’s 40,000-square-foot casino floor. WIth about 1,000 slot machines, it could take months or years to play them all. Dining options include the the Blue Square Cafe, Player’s Buffet, DJ’s Steakhouse and the Oculus Bar.

Entertainment is a big part of the Jumer’s experience, especially in the summer. In the colder months, their nightclub offers live entertainment on the weekends, starting in February. Then, come the warmer months, their outdoor concert venue swings into gear with a patio area, fire pit and more.

The hotel has 205 rooms and an “aqua range” where guests can drive special floating golf balls into a lake. The balls are collected regularly to prevent any environmental damage.

Horseshoe Hammond
777 Casino Center Drive,
Hammond, IN

Horseshoe Hammond, not far across the state line in Indiana, has long been a destination for Illinois gamblers. The lakefront casino is also a destination for event planners, with more than 100,000 square feet of space divided among six meeting spaces.

If you like penny slots, Horseshoe Hammond has 1,500 of them, plenty to keep visitors occupied for hours. Its 100 gaming tables include Le Cheng, an Asian gaming experience with games like Pai Gow Tiles, Baccarat, Mini Baccarat Dragon Bonus and EZ Baccarat. More traditional games like craps, roulette, blackjack and poker are prevalent as well.

Jack Binion’s Steak House is one of the main draws of Horseshoe Hammond, with a view of Lake Michigan and high quality fine cuisine. Other food options include The Eatery, an open seating area near the casino floor, Village Square Buffet and Foo Noodle Bar, which offers authentic Asian fare.

For entertainment, The Venue draws notable acts to Northwest Indiana. Upcoming shows include The Price is Right Live on Feb. 3, Tyler Henry on Feb. 24 and Dane Cook on March 30.

Ameristar East Chicago
777 Ameristar Blvd., East Chicago, IN

The Ameristar East Chicago is innovating when it comes to gambling options. According, their new games include Chase the Flush, where a player tries to make the best possible hand with seven cards, and Super 6 Baccarat, which is no commission and has a Dragon and Super 6 side bet, according to Roxann Kinkade, Ameristar’s director of public relations.

Upcoming improvements include plans to move their High Limit Slots and Table Games to The Pavilion area, outside of casino floor, and a relocation of the Burger Brothers restaurant. Currently Ameristar has more than 1,700 slot machines, 70 table games and high-limit table games.

Stadium Sports Bar and Grill is just what it sounds like casual dining with 40 flatscreen TVs. Bugatti’s Steak and Pasta is modeled on fine Italian chophouses. Burger Brothers is devoted to the beef patty, and Heritage Buffet serves up American cooking and cuisine from around the world. Sbarro offers pizza and other Italian favorites.

There’s also a hotel with 288 rooms and suites, including super suites of 1,000 square feet and all-marble baths. There’s free parking for up to 2,000 vehicles.

Blue Chip Casino
777 Blue Chip Drive, Michigan City, IN

Head out to Michigan City, Ind., and you’ll find Blue Chip Casino, which features a casino, five restaurants, entertainment lounge and two hotels towers with 486 rooms. The Spa Blu Tower is especially noteworthy with its 22 stories and modern decor.

The 65,000-square-foot casino has 1,700 slot machines, from penny slots to $100, 42 table games and an eight-table live poker room. When hunger hits, check out Options Buffet, William B’s Steakhouse, Nelson’s Deli, It’s Vegas Baby or The Game for meal choices.

Rocks lounge and It’s Vegas Baby both host local and regional bands on Fridays and Saturdays, and the 1,300-seat Stardust Event Center has drawn national acts such as Trace Adkins, Bret Michaels and Bill Engvall.

One feature unique to the Chicago area is Spa Blu, a 10,000-square-foot amenity with nine spa treatment rooms, a salon and fitness room.

Gambling problems?
Anyone with gambling issues can call the Illinois Hotline for Gam-Anon at 708-802-0105 or visit www.gam-anon.org. Gamblers Anonymous has a Chicago Hotline at 312-346-1588 and is online at www.gamblersanonymous.org