East Peoria (HOI) - Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino is kicking off 2020 with four projects that executives hope will bring in new customers.
Boyd Gaming CEO, Keith Smith, says they will open up a sports book as soon as the state allows them to. The company also plans to overhaul the steakhouse and deli this year. They will also "update" the hotel's 200 rooms. He did not have a specific timeline for these projects, other than they will be working on them this year.
All four of the updates are designed to attract new faces to their premises. Par-A-Dice has seen steep declines in admission and gaming revenue since the turn of the century.
Par-A-Dice in the 2000's
|Year||Adjusted Gross Receipts||Admission|
Boyd operates seven sports books outside Las Vegas, where they have 12. Each state has different regulations, and Smith says his team is still getting a handle on how things will work in Illinois.
Sports betting is not a high-margin business for casinos, but it adds to their portfolio and brings people in the door who might not want to touch a slot machine. The catch, however, is mobile sports betting gobbles up more than 80% of the market in states where it is legal.
Illinois did allow for online bets, but they put two of the highest profile companies, Draft Kings and Fan Duel, in a proverbial penalty box. Those companies will not be able to start accepting bets for 18 months. This was done to prevent them from racing into the market and drowning out casinos and race tracks that have been operating in the state for decades.
"If we got the okay from the state and we could move forward it wouldn't take long."Keith Smith
Boyd Gaming partners with Fan Duel for their mobile sports betting in other states. Smith says that will not delay them from opening up a sports book in Illinois, or from offering mobile betting. "We've operated sports books in Nevada for 45 years by ourselves," he said.
One of the tricks will be where to put the physical sports betting window. "We don't have the space right now but one of the reasons I'm here is take a look at that and see if we can't find the right place to put it," Smith said.
He hinted there's a possibility it could be on land and not on the boat. "It's what we're investigating now. Where does it go? Is it a full scale lounge? Does it look like a Las Vegas style sports book? Is it a little smaller, scaled back? That'll all be determined over the course of time."
Smith says Boyd has not yet submitted an application for a sports betting license to the state gaming board. "If we got the okay from the state and we could move forward it wouldn't take long," he said. "The way sports betting works we'd certainly like to be ready for the next NFL season."
Amenities, amenities, amenities
Par-A-Dice's other 2020 improvements do not directly involve gambling, but Smith believes they're crucial to getting new customers in the door.
Smith says their new bar and lounge, the Tin Lizard, has done well since it opened in September. "It's been a wonderful addition to the property," he said. "A lot of new faces coming to participate. It's got a great food offering and a great fun menu."
That's their vision for the casino's lobby area. Nelson's Deli and Boyd Steakhouse will both be re-done. The steakhouse will have a new name and menu modeled after a similar re-imagining at one of their other properties.
As the casino's declining admission rates show, a slot machine is not enough to get people in the door anymore. Recent explosions in video gaming in Illinois have spread gambling to just about every gas station and bar.
"[Those places] can't offer what we can offer here," Smith said. "Which is a full scale experience with restaurants, with bars and great service and everything else. We just focus on doing what we do best and hope to continue to have the customers come in."
Focused on East Peoria
Boyd Gaming has a drastic option available to them as a result of 2019's gambling expansion. The new law gives them the ability to move Par-A-Dice from the boat in East Peoria to a land-based location in Peoria.
Smith said they are not planning anything like that now. "It would take quite an investment to move the entire casino on land," he said. "It's possible to move part of the casino on land."
Still, renovating the hotel and casino lobby show Boyd's focus is the location they've already built. East Peoria Mayor, John Kahl, appreciates that investment. Par-A-Dice is East Peoria's largest employer.
"They've been a valued member of our community, they're a great partner," Kahl said. "They've been our partner since 1996 when they purchased Par-A-Dice. I think it sends a very positive message."