Open For Just Seven Months, Golden Nugget Paying Dividends For Danville

Written By T.J. McBride on January 22, 2024 - Last Updated on January 24, 2024
A photo of Golden Nugget Danville's gaming floor on a story about the positive economic impact the temporary facility has had on the city.

The Golden Nugget casino in Danville opened in its temporary home about seven months ago and already the community is benefiting in multiple ways.

Danville has received $1.3 million from the casino directly, but that number does not tell the entire story. There were also two different donations of $1 million to benefit the community and another $1 million donation is coming in the near future. The contributions to the community have been substantial.

Golden Nugget Danville, with legal issues behind it and the final operating license in hand, is showing it could make quite the impact on the state’s casino market down the line.

In addition to large donations to the community, the casino itself has benefited Danville

The Illinois casino market has been growing steadily and a large reason why is because the Illinois Gaming Board has added five new casinos since Nov. 2021. Included on that list is Golden Nugget Danville, which opened in May 2023.

While the future success of Golden Nugget cannot be known, there is no denying Danville is already benefiting greatly from it.

As the process of building the casino and opening the temporary facility was taking place, Wilmorite Management – which owns the casino – jumped right into donating to the community. First, $1 million was donated to the Boys and Girls Club. That money is being used to build a new teen center as well as fund staffing and overhead bills. Another $1 million was contributed to develop the riverfront property. That includes the construction of an overlook behind David S. Palmer Arena as well as a boardwalk along the river.

There will be another $1 million provided by Golden Nugget to help upgrade the municipal building in Danville and another $600,000 dedicated to renovating the city sewer system.

City reaps $1.3 million in casino tax in 6 months

Beyond just writing a check, the success of the casino has also led to the community reaping some reward. In just casino taxes, $1.332 million has been contributed to Danville over just six months. That puts the casino ahead of the $2 million budgeted by Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. when drawn out over a full year. The casino has also added another $136,649 of funds to the city through admission fees. For each casino admission, the city receives $1.

The city hopes to gain additional money to fund pensions for those who worked in the fire department or as law enforcement. The city hopes to accomplish that goal by assisting the casino in adding a Golden Nugget Illinois Sportsbook to its offerings. So far it has not applied for a sports betting license, but that will likely come when the construction of the permanent casino is closer to completion.

Williams told the News-Gazette he wants to pursue that type of a deal between Golden Nugget and Danville.

“Adding the sportsbook would allow folks another way to have fun when rooting on their favorite teams while also helping us pay down our police and fire pensions.”

With final license in hand and legal issues over, Golden Nugget is excited for the future

The road to this point has not always been easy for Golden Nugget. There have been legal disputes over the zoning of the casino land and a long licensing process to work through.

Now, after a significant amount of effort, Golden Nugget is beginning the new year with its final operating license in hand and all legal issues in the rear-view mirror. Now, not only is Golden Nugget well-positioned from a brick-and-mortar perspective, but it has proven it can be a successful licensee when Illinois online casinos inevitably become legal and gambling operators fight for their spots in the lucrative iGaming market.

The legal issues came down to a dispute between Golden Nugget and Mervis Industries. First, Mervis filed a suit against the city of Danville after it voted in favor of rezoning to make room for the casino. That suit was thrown out after a favorable ruling from Coles County Circuit Judge Mark Bovard.

To Mayor Williams, this was a tremendous win that he likened to David versus Goliath.

“In a David versus Goliath-like battle over the future of the city and who will rule it, the people or special interests, the city of Danville has prevailed. We are thrilled that Judge Bovard issued a motion for summary judgment dismissing Mervis Industries’ unfounded claims regarding zoning of the Golden Nugget Danville.”

Golden Nugget to complete permanent casino

The next step in the process for Golden Nugget was completing its licensing process which it did on Oct. 26, 2023. As the casino continues toward completing its permanent home, IGB Administrator Marcus D. Fruchter promised to continue providing support to cross the finish line.

“With today’s licensing actions, the IGB has opened and licensed five new casinos since November of 2021 in Rockford, Waukegan, Danville, Carterville and Chicago in addition to its other regulatory and law enforcement work. During this period of unprecedented growth and expansion, the staff and board members of the IGB remained steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the ethics, compliance, integrity, safety, and transparency of Illinois gaming and we will continue to do so.”

As Golden Nugget begins to find its footing as it moves into the future, it hired a new general manager to take the wheel. The casino named Jahnae Erpenbach as the new general manager, and she is replacing Juris Basens, who has had the job since the temporary casino opened.

Erpenbach is from the area and has an extensive history in the Illinois gaming industry. She was part of the first riverboat casino openings in the state back in the early 1990s; specifically, Players Casino which opened in 1993. Erpenbach is extremely excited about her new role.

“I can tell you, humbly, I am ready and poised, and absolutely excited about the opportunity to join the Danville team. I’m looking for a lot of good success for the future to get it to the maximum potential that I know it can do.”

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He covers the gaming landscape across multiple states in addition to his main beat covering the NBA's Denver Nuggets. His NBA work can be found at several major media outlets including ESPN, FiveThirtyEight and Bleacher Report.

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