Fire Officials Put Chicago-Area Casino Damages at $340M

March 30, 2009

Fire officials in suburban Chicago say an early estimate of fire damages to the Empress Casino is $340 million.

The March 20 fire sparked by a construction worker spread quickly and burned for 12 hours but was contained to a pavilion area. The fire began in an area of the property that was undergoing construction as part of a $50 million renovation at the property, which included upgrades to certain food and beverage offerings, and was contained on the land-side of the property before it could spread to the adjacent casino barge, according to Penn National Gaming Inc., which operates the casino. The main part of the floating casino in Joliet wasn’t heavily damaged.

Fire Chief Joe Formhals said the damage estimate is rough, but says it’s required as part of official reports. An Empress spokesman says insurance agents are still working on their own estimates.

The fire department estimate includes $290 million for reconstruction costs and $50 million for losses inside the building.

Empress officials haven’t set a reopening date. Based on 2008 figures, the casino could be losing more than a half million dollars daily. The Chicago Triubune reported in its online edition March 23 that casino employees have been told they will be paid for 90 days.

Information from: The Herald-News,, Penn National Gaming Inc., The Chicago Tribune

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