Travel Fanboy

Harrah’s Joliet: Review

Joliet’s centerpiece is the old prison, an intimidating penitentiary palace famously loathed by Jake and Elwood. The city and the prison have a shared history. But there is a little more to the city beyond simply housing the now-closed Illinois State Penitentiary, namely gambling. Joliet has two of the best casinos in Illinois in Harrah’s and Hollywood. If you’re a midwestern casino enthusiast, Harrah’s is worth a visit if you’re looking to add to your chip collection.

Harrah’s Joliet is south of Chicago, just over 30 miles and 50 minutes away from Midway Airport. Because of Illinois law, Harrah’s is a riverboat casino on the Des Plaines River. In Illinois, we pronounce the ‘s’ at the end of Des Palines, by the way. Because the riverboat gambling law is now more relaxed, it once required gambling boats to leave the dock every couple of hours, Harrah’s is really just a couple of large, stationary barges. You’ll never know you’re on the water. Any swaying you feel is likely cocktail induced.

Room and hat


It’s a shame that these rooms are many visitors’ first impression. They’re impressively large for such a modest hotel, but they’re in serious need of a refresh. Chipped furniture, peeling wallpaper, and a multitude of scratches paint the space. My room was actually very clean, but these imperfections make the room feel cheap. Louvered bathroom doors only further degrade the accommodations. The tawdry shower soap dispensers don’t help either.


Still, it’s comfortable. My bedding was tidy and plush. Hallways noise was a non-issue. I dare say that I enjoyed my stay quite a bit, despite my room’s painfully non-premium characteristics.

What the accomodations lack, however, is made up for in stellar customer service across the property. Every employee interaction I had was earnest and positive. From the hotel front desk to the craps pit, everyone was cordial and eager to please.


And as for that casino. Harrah’s Joliet is certainly not a sprawling mega-resort like its sisters in Vegas, but the floor is impressive by riverboat standards. You may have to jostle for position at the tables during peak weekend hours, but that’s to be expected. Limits are standard for Illinois casinos. $10 blackjack and craps are staples. For other low roller options, Hollywood Casino Joliet is only about a 12-minute drive away. My group played some $5 craps at midday on a Saturday at Hollywood. There are all manner of slots at the expected denominations at Harrah’s. I’m not much of a slot player, but they seem to have a small collection of the newer, licensed machines. For those looking to be bougy on a budget, there’s even some moderately priced $10 baccarat in the high limit room. The casino won’t impress a gambling enthusiast who’s been around the block, but if you go with the right company, the crew will help you have as good a time as any.

NY Strip at The Reserve


Harrah’s Joliet’s dining options are what you would expect for a casino and hotel of this tier. The buffet is unremarkable but does its job. There’s a casual grill I didn’t try which serves standard American fare. A standout in both service and dishes is the steakhouse, The Reserve. Maybe it was unfair of me to not expect much from Harrah’s’ only upscale option, but The Reserve absolutely delivered. I had the New York Strip which was cooked to perfection. Our server was prompt and patient, even cutting individual checks for all members in our very large group. Relaxing with amazing people with a fine steak and a good cocktail after a fun day of gambling is pretty much the perfect way to round out a day.

I wasn’t expecting Harrah’s Joliet to blow me away. It didn’t. It did, however, provide a great reminder of how casino customer service should be done. Harrah’s Joliet likely won’t replace my or your Vegas or AC vacations, but it can certainly be a great place to scratch a gambling itch between trips.

Riverboat Recreation
  • Room
  • Service
  • Casino
  • Amenities
  • Low roller friendly

TFB Takeaway

A nice little gambling retreat south of Chicago. Rooms need an upgrade, but stellar service makes an overnight stay worth a drive.

Travel Fanboy

Adam is the editor of and Beyond being the world's most famous travel influencer, he's passionate about reckless points and miles pursuits. Formerly of Vegas Fanboy fame.

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