Casino Profile - Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, Illinois

By John Grochowski

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, Illinois

It doesn’t take very many steps off the ramp and in through the casino entrance to understand what Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Illinois, is all about.

To the immediate left are $1 Wheel of Fortune reel spinners. To the right is a bank of $5 machines labeled “Premium Slots,” with IGT three-reel games including Five Times Pay and Diamond Elves. Straight ahead is the table games pit, where the $25 tables are busy even on a weekday morning.

 

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, Illinois

The Grand Victoria Casino located on the Fox River

Oh, there are penny and two-cent games, too, mostly on the lower deck. But more than any other casino in Illinois, Grand Victoria caters to the upper end of the market.

And the ramp? Yes, Grand Victoria is on a riverboat, the same one built for the casino’s opening in 1995. In the early days, it would chug up and down short distances of the Fox River, in compliance with Illinois cruise regulations. Nowadays, it sits dockside, cruises no longer required.

But unlike other Chicago area operations in Aurora and Joliet, Grand Victoria has remained in the same facility instead of replacing it with a dockside barge. The others used to split their legal limit of 1,200 gaming positions between two boats per site, each spreading the games among three or four decks --- a lot of up and down stairs. Grand Victoria always has had most of its games on the entry level, with a relative handful downstairs on a lower deck. The need for a barge has never been pressing.

 

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, Illinois

A view of the main casino inside the Grand Victoria


When Illinois started opening riverboat casinos in the early 1990s, part of the point was to bring new business to old river towns that had been hit by the loss of old industry. That included Elgin, about 40 miles northwest of Chicago.

Grand Victoria has tried hard to make itself part of the community, sharing a portion of its revenue with local institutions beyond the state gaming revenue and admissions taxes. Its free parking garage, with 1,450 spaces to go with a large surface parking lot, serves the downtown area as well as the casino. Restaurants, in a land-based pavilion, are open to the full community. Some Chicago area casinos have experimented with putting turnstiles outside the restaurant area of their pavilions, which effectively bans those under age 21. The purpose is to save admissions tax --- if a customer leaving a casino area passes through turnstiles to go to the buffet, then re-enters through turnstiles, it’s a separate tax. Grand Victoria has never concerned itself with that.

Ties to Elgin’s past are symbolized by a giant analog clock hanging high from the 55-foot ceiling in the entryway to the casino pavilion. It harkens to the days of the Elgin National Watch Company, which produced quality timepieces in the city for 100 years, starting in 1864.

Back in the present, Grand Victoria has been the most successful of Illinois’ nine casinos. Until the economic downturn of the last couple of years, it frequently produced monthly gaming revenues of $30 million-plus. More recently, with business hurt by both the recession and Illinois’ ban on smoking in public facilities, $24 million or so has been the norm. It has an outstanding location, with a near-monopoly on the affluent northwest suburbs centered in nearby Arlington Heights. 

That near-monopoly is coming to an end. Ground has been broken for a new casino to open next year in Des Plaines, toward the eastern side of that northwest suburban area. Grand Victoria has been preparing for the new competition with a spruce-up, including a new restaurant, the Prime Burger House, featuring gourmet burgers such as the Thai Chicken Burger and the Prairie Fire Buffalo Burger, or, if what you really want is a traditional hamburger, the In the Box Burger.

Buckingham’s Steak House has been a fixture since the casino opened, but its menu is undergoing some updating and fine-tuning. The same goes for the Grand Victoria Buffet. Crave Deli offers 24-hour service, rounding out the four food-service options.

 

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, Illinois

Buckingham's, the fine dining restaurant at Grand Victoria

On the gambling boat, Grand Victoria stands alone in having dollar games as the most common denomination. In every other casino in Illinois, either penny or 2-cent games command the largest share of floor space. At Grand Victoria, there are 391 dollar games among the 1,126 electronic gaming devices, with 2-centers having the next biggest share at 279 games. When the casino opened, when nearly all slots were three-reelers, quarter slots ruled the floor, but it quickly became apparent there was high demand for dollar games. That continues today, though low-denomination video games have carved out their niche.

For those who play at $5 level, Grand Victoria offers some strong video poker, with Not So Ugly Deuces (99.7 percent return with expert play), 9-6 Jacks or Better (99.5), 8-5 Bonus Poker (99.2), 9-7 Double Bonus (99.1) and 9-6 Double Double Bonus (99.0). Dollar games are a step down --- 8-5 Jacks or Better, 9-5 Double Double Bonus, 9-6 Double Bonus --- so players might want to consider quarter Triple Play/Five Play games instead. There you’ll find 9-5 Jacks or Better, 9-6 Double Double Bonus and Illinois Deuces Wild, about as good as you’ll get on quarters in the Chicago area.

The table games pit has 17 tables for blackjack, four for craps, four for roulette, three for Three Card Poker, and one each for Caribbean Stud and mini-baccarat. Craps offers 100x odds, with a $10 table minimum on a weekday visit. The same morning, $15 and $25 blackjack tables offered a six-deck game with the dealer hitting soft 17 and double downs after splitting pairs permitted. Beware of the $5 and $10 tables, where blackjacks pay only 6-5, padding the house edge by 1.4 percent.

Responding to the poker boom, Grand Victoria has a small card room with six poker tables. No-limit Texas Hold’em rules the roost here.

There is plenty for low-rollers to do along with the emphasis on higher-limit games. And with good restaurants and variety in an airy pavilion, it’s a solid mix for Chicago area players looking for a day or night out.

Grand Victoria Casino is located at 250 South Grove Avenue in Elgin, Illinois. For more information call them toll-free at (888) 508-1900, or visit www.grandvictoriacasino.com.

John Grochowski writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column on gambling,
and is author of  the "Casino Answer Book" series from Bonus Books.  

 

Forum Latest Posts

Gambling Software

Top
Copyright © 2014 American Casino Guide. All Rights Reserved.