Batavia school district could benefit financially from new Aurora casino near outlet mall

An artist's rendering of what the hotel at the proposed new Hollywood Casino in Aurora could look like was displayed at an open house Thursday night.

The Hollywood Casino in Aurora will close shop downtown and move near Batavia city limits in two years and that could be a financial win for Batavia School District 101.

City of Aurora representatives presented the casino project’s implications at the Batavia school board meeting May 23. The district would receive a share of the tax monies generated by the new casino, which is expected to be adjacent to Chicago Premium Outlets, an outdoor mall on Bilter Road and Farnsworth Avenue.

Tony Inglese, the district’s chief financial officer, expressed enthusiasm.

“They are here to talk about an exciting development that is about to get underway which is in the city of Aurora but within the Batavia school district,” Inglese said.

Alex Alexandrou, chief management officer for Aurora, said the project is close to being a $400 million investment.

“This is going to be a Las Vegas-style resort,” Alexandrou said. “This is not simply going to be a casino that you see along the highway in Iowa or Michigan. This is truly a comprehensive resort.”

He said the project will have a hotel – expected to have more than 200 rooms – and will have five restaurants, a spa, a “significant events center” and a “state-of-the-art casino.”

Chris Minick, chief financial officer and treasurer of Aurora, spoke about the site’s nine parcels. He said three are developed, while six are vacant. Five of them are owned by the city of Aurora.

Minick said these properties generate “a little over” $48,000 in property taxes. That means $29,850 goes to the Batavia school district.

He said there are no contributions of revenue from what is called TIF No. 7, adding that a redevelopment agreement calls for a new TIF district.

Minick said the goal is to have a TIF district established before Dec. 31.

A tax increment financing district – or TIF – is a development tool used by local governments to encourage development or redevelopment in blighted areas that would be too expensive to improve with private dollars alone.

The casino has to generate $5.25 million in property taxes annually. According to the redevelopment agreement, if incremental taxes are less that $5.25 million in any year, the casino would pay the difference.

“So if those nine parcels that make up the future casino site generate $4 million in incremental tax revenue, the casino will write a check to the city for $1.25 million,” Minick said.

He said the Batavia school district could get $323,400 annually from the development.

The life of the new TIF is 23 years, meaning the school district could receive about $7 million over the duration of the TIF district.

Trevor Dick, assistant director of the mayor’s office of economic development in Aurora, spoke on the project’s construction.

Dick highlighted construction that will include widening Farnsworth Avenue, creating three lanes each direction, turn lanes and improved signals. The westbound tollway would have a second northbound off ramp. Also, the toll would use only an I-PASS.

Dick gave an option for those who do not want to gamble.

“Now if you have a family or even if you don’t like gambling, you can access the restaurants, the hotel, the spa, the events center without even stepping foot in the casino,” Dick said. “Remember back in the day you’d have to go through the casino first and try to find all of that? They’ve realized that really eliminates a lot of the visitors, families, etc.”

Alexandrou called the casino’s new location a “win-win.”

“This is certainly a tremendous opportunity for the Batavia school district,” Alexandrou said.