Rockford Casino

Rockford city leaders are preparing to build a casino.

WNIJ will provide conversations with those who are involved with what a casino will mean for the community.

Hard Rock International/City of Rockford

Last week, the Rockford City Council voted 11-to-1 (with one abstention) in favor of certifying Hard Rock’s plan to the Illinois Gaming Board. Hard Rock edged out two alternative casino proposals. 

The Gaming Board has up to a year from when it receives the proposal to decide whether to grant a casino license to Hard Rock. If they do, Mayor Tom McNamara says Hard Rock will first open a temporary casino site at Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center.

"I would say you have about 90 to 180 days and you will have that temporary facility up and running," he said.

Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford residents had the chance Monday to hear about the three plans for a new casino. 

Crowds packed the Coronado Performing Arts Center for the city's public hearing. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara was optimistic as he kicked off the night's events.

"All three organizations believe in the City of Rockford," he said. "All three want to invest their dollars in the City of Rockford, and all three see potential in a community that continues its comeback." 

Pixabay

Friday afternoon was the deadline for casino operators for submit their proposals to the City of Rockford. It received three different proposals. 

One proposal is by Hard Rock International. The company wants to build the casino at the site of the former Clock Tower Resort near I-90.  The second is by Gorman and Company, a firm that wants to build next to an Embassy Suites downtown.  The Register Star confirms both companies delivered their proposals Friday afternoon. 

City of Rockford

Friday is the City of Rockford’s deadline for accepting proposals to build a casino.

The casino license is one of six approved by the state’s gambling expansion. Hard Rock International and Gorman and Company have both expressed interest, but Mayor Tom McNamara says it ultimately comes down to what is submitted.

“They’re due at the city at 2 o’clock," he said. "We’re eagerly anticipating casino applications to be delivered.”

"SPORTS BETS" BY FLICKR USER THOMAS SCHLOSSER / (CC x 2.0)

The Illinois Gaming Board is seeking input on sports betting in the state, which was legalized this year.

It wants to use the comments to shape future regulations. Both the gambling industry and members of the public are encouraged to express their concerns. Former Winnebago County Board Member John Ekberg is part of the latter group. He suggested this course of action at a meeting of concerned citizens in Rockford last month. 

Rockford Park District

Hard Rock International has pledged several philanthropic initiatives to the Rockford Park District if the company secures a casino license in the city. 

The district has been searching for alternative sources of funds due to declining property tax revenue. Hard Rock approached them several weeks ago about public investment. Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine proposed several music-related projects. These include an outdoor amphitheater and a music production studio at a community center. 

Susan Stephens

The City of Rockford has a new casino in the works, and officials will soon evaluate possible sites and construction plans.

State government is granting six new casino licenses as part of the gambling expansion bill signed in May.  One of these is for Rockford, and city government is currently accepting proposals. Mayor Tom McNamara says the proposals include details such as where the casino will be built, and how it will run.

"SPORTS BETS" BY FLICKR USER THOMAS SCHLOSSER / (CC x 2.0)

Legalized sports betting will soon come to Illinois as part of the state's new gambling expansion law.

Sports wagering is nothing new. But in the U.S., the practice has generally been illegal outside of a few specific venues. That changed last year when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. It allows states to legalize sports betting.

In Illinois, there are several companies eager to enter the market. But casinos lobbied hard against allowing them unfettered access. State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) explains.

Pixabay

Six new casinos are planned for Illinois. Lawmakers expect hefty tax revenue, but the casinos also raise the risk of problem gambling. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill at the end of June that allows six new casinos and legalizes sports betting. Rockford is the site of one such casino, and it could significantly contribute to local and state revenue.

A comprehensive gambling bill has been a repeated priority in the state legislature for several years. One of its biggest supporters has been Republican State Sen. Dave Syverson. He says a major concern is gambling dollars being lost to surrounding states. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Rockford Monday morning to mark the start of the process toward building a new casino in the area.

Organizers handed out playing cards and poker chips that read "J.B. Bet On Us" and "Our Governor Is Aces." A bill he signed last week allows for 6 new casinos statewide, mostly in cities near the Illinois border. Pritzker said casino revenue is a key component of his capital plan:

Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford is moving ahead with its plans to build a casino after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an expanded gambling bill into law Friday.

Mayor Tom McNamara says the city has 120 days from the bill’s signing to submit applications for the casino’s location and operator to the Illinois Gaming Board.  McNamara says the city is working to get its Request for Proposals out by July 4th.

“If we can get it out by Monday, that would be even more spectacular. But it’s a tight timeframe," he said. "A lot of work needs to go into this, obviously, because you’ve got one shot at this.”