ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford’s Hard Rock Casino celebrated a construction milestone on Friday.

The first vertical steel beam went up today.

It has been almost four years since the passage of an Illinois law cleared the way for Rockford to gain a casino, and put the city in a pitched race against a competing casino project in Beloit.

The permanent casino is being built on the site of the former Clock Tower Resort, at 7801 E. State Street at the I-90 exit ramp.

“We only lost a handful of days over the winter, so the crews were able to work six days a week, pretty long hours, got most of the site work done,” said Hard Rock Casino Rockford president Geno Iafrate.

There is still no public timetable for the construction of the casino to be completed but representatives say it will take less than 3 years to build. Iafrate says there are still plans to add a hotel, but it will be in phase two of the construction project.

Hard Rock opened a temporary casino in Rockford, at 610 N Bell School Road.

This week, it introduced table games such as blackjack, three-card poker, and ultimate hold ’em.

The games will be offered from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday-Thursday and from 10-2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Numbers from the Illinois Gaming Board show over 463,000 people visited the temporary Rockford Casino: A Hard Rock Opening Act in 2022, bringing in $54.7 million.

Of that, $8 million went to the state and $3 million went to the Rockford region, with the city taking a majority share in a split with Winnebago County, Loves Park, and Machesney Park.

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a gaming expansion bill into law on June 28, 2019, allowing a casino to be built in six areas in Illinois, including Rockford.

Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen said the $310 million casino project would create 1,200 permanent jobs and another 1,000 during construction.