Empress Casino to Reopen After 97-Day Closure

June 25, 2009 5:26:08 AM PDT
While the casino's entertainment pavilion was destroyed, the casino barge was preserved. During the business disruption, Empress proceeded with a renovation of the casino originally planned for later this year. The reopening will unveil an entirely remodeled casino barge loaded with new features and amenities for guests. Just less than three months after a devastating fire destroyed the entertainment pavilion at Empress Casino Hotel, the property is planning to re-open its casino barge on June 25 at 10:30 a.m. And with the re-opening comes a new gaming experience for Chicagoland players.

When guests enter the facility, they will discover a totally remodeled two-deck casino with new carpeting, lighting, wall finishes and ceiling treatments and the addition of large plasma screen TVs throughout the facility so they can play slots and keep an eye on their favorite entertainment and sports events.

Using previously unoccupied space on the lower level of the casino, Empress will introduce a new and expanded high-limit gaming area with slots and tables and a new VIP players lounge that offers guests the opportunity to relax and enjoy food and drinks in the sophisticated ambiance of a private club.

"It may be the same casino, but our guests won't recognize the place," said Frank Quigley, Empress vice president and general manager. "We're transforming both gaming floors to create an atmosphere that combines classic luxury and glamour of 1930s art deco style with the latest technology and amenities designed for their comfort."

In addition, the second floor of the casino will feature a new 240-seat buffet which has more seats than the buffet previously located in the Empress' pavilion. The Take Two Deli on the lower floor serves sandwiches, beverages and sweets.

Outdoor smoking lounges, including a dedicated lounge for VIP guests, are being added to the casino (Empress currently has the most smoking lounges in the market).

Along with the renovations, Empress is re-landscaping the property and adding new plants and shrubbery that extend from the entrance on Rt. 6 to the casino.

Although the casino gaming barge was not damaged by the March 20 fire, Empress needed to shut down the facility for the safety of guests and employees so debris could be cleared and an entranceway could be created to access the casino.

Empress took advantage of the disruption to accelerate the timetable of its casino floor renovation, which was previously scheduled for the third quarter of this year.

During the nearly 90-day period that the casino was closed, Penn National Gaming, Inc. continued to pay Empress employees their full salary and benefits as well as 50 percent of employees' reported tip income.

Empress worked with the United Way of Will and Grundy counties to organize community volunteer activities for employees during this timeframe. Empress employees have contributed more than 5,000 volunteer hours since the fire. Local organizations benefiting from this effort have included Catholic Charities, Campfire USA, Joliet Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, Forest Preserve of Will County, Joliet Area Community Hospice, United Community Development Corporation and Lambs Fold Women's Center. In addition, employees donated over 1,500 pounds of food to local food pantries and provided half a truck load of clothing to Goodwill.

When: Thursday, June 25

· 9:30 a.m. - Flag raising ceremony with Joliet Police Department - the flag was lowered during the March 20 fire by police officers so it wasn't damaged (video/photo opportunity only)

· 10 a.m. - Opening remarks from casino representatives and elected officials

· 10:25 a.m. - Ribbon cutting at the casino turnstile entrance - Empress VP/General Manager Frank Quigley and Joliet Fire Chief Joe Formhals to cut the ribbon using a ceremonial fire ax

· 10:30 a.m. - Doors open to the public, interviews, video and photography inside the casino available

Media will be allowed on property beginning at 5 a.m. Opportunities for early morning TV and radio show interviews and live shots at the casino rotunda (before the turnstiles) are available upon request beginning at 6 a.m. Space for live truck access close to the casino is limited and available first come first serve for those who need it. All live shots after 8 a.m. must be conducted from outside the casino.

Who: Speaking at the reopening ceremonies:
· Empress VP/General Manager, Frank Quigley
· Penn National Gaming, Inc. COO Tim Wilmott
· State Senator A.J. Wilhelmi
· State Senator Linda Holmes
· Joliet City Manager Tom Thanas


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