City of Rockford receives three casino proposals

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Three casino proposals were received by the City of Rockford before a 2 p.m. deadline Friday, and will now go under consideration, the city announced.

The city hired two consulting firms to help evaluate and approve casino proposals, including Union Gaming Analytics, LLC and Taft Stetinius & Hollister LLP, two experienced industry professional outfits, to represent Rockford in negotiations.

Hard Rock International was the first hopeful casino operator to throw their hat in the ring to build Rockford’s first casino.

Rockford’s own superstar, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, is a force behind Hard Rock calling the Forest City home.

Hard Rock International opened an Information Center, located at 308 W. State Street, on August 15th.

The casino chain wants to build at the site of the former Clock Tower Resort, at 7801 E. State Street.

Photo: Hard Rock International

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

The Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners is backing the proposed Hard Rock Casino.

The group voted in favor of a resolution, in support of the construction on Tuesday, August 20th.

Park administrators announced a potential partnership between the park district and the proposed operator of the casino, Hard Rock International.

In return, the company has committed incorporate a music production studio at Washington Park Community Center, build an outdoor amphitheater at Levings Lake, provide enhanced performance opportunities and make possible improvements to the Sinnisssippi Music Shell. Hard Rock has also agreed to provide support for neighborhood youth programs.

The partnership would only take place if the Hard Rock project is approved by Rockford City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board.

“We couldn’t be more excited to submit our bid to the City of Rockford. We look forward to sharing details of our proposal and our commitment to the city as we are able within the city’s review process,” said Dan Fischer, lead investor with the Hard Rock Casino Rockford proposal team.

A group called the Rock River West Casino Group, headed up by construction firm Gorman and Company, delivered a proposal for a casino and aquarium in downtown Rockford.

According to the group, the proposed casino would be located adjacent to the anticipated train station and Amerock Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center on South Main, in Rockford’s “Waterpower District.”

The “Waterpower District” extends from Kent Creek on the south to the Chicago and North Western Railroad on the north, and from Rock River on the east to South Main Street on the west

Photo: Rock River West Casino Group

The third proposal was received for a Forest City Casino, from Luna Entertainment, which hopes to build on a 135 acre plot near Mercyhealth’s Javon Bea Hospital on Riverside Boulevard.

The proposal includes a hotel and a food and arcade attraction.

Luna Entertainment is a venture capital group which has owned and operated casinos in Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, California and Oklahoma.

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

Proposals were due by 2 p.m. on August 30th, ending with filing the applications with the Illinois Gaming Board by the end of October.

If a license is approved, McNamara believes a casino could be set up at a temporary site by the end of 2019, with the full casino to be built within 2 years.

The public presentations will be held in front of City Council on September 16th. The public hearing, in which residents are encouraged to chime in, is scheduled for September 23rd.

In development competition with a Rockford casino, the Ho-Chunk Nation announced plans to build a $405 million resort-casino in Beloit. The potential casino, hotel, and water park would be built near the corner of Willowbrook and Colley Road.

The casino project needs the approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has been considering the project after an Environmental Impact Statement was released in May, plus another stamp of approval from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.

Proposed Ho-Chunk Nation casino in Beloit.

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