CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — On Thursday, the Illinois Gaming Commission determined that Rockford’s Hard Rock Casino is suitable for a license, which will allow construction to begin on a temporary location at Giovanni’s on N. Bell School Road.
The gaming commission has not yet approved a license for the casino.
Today’s vote is a significant step in the licensing process, clearing the way for the investors to arrange financing, order gambling machines and start construction.
Once a license is approved, construction can begin at the casino’s permanent location, on the former Clock Tower Resort property on E. State Street.
Hard Rock International’s chief operating officer, Jon Lucas, said, “We are grateful to the state and the Illinois Gaming Board for their support and for allowing this process to get one step closer to reality. We have a lot of work to do to complete this process, and we are excited at what lies ahead, as we know the city of Rockford is as well, with respect to the jobs and revenues this project will create.”
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said of the decision, “We believe that this is going to be good for a whole host of sectors in our community… Hard Rock has agreed to invest in local non-profits. They’ve agreed to partner with organizations such as the Park District, to invest in Washington Park.”
“After 20 years of working to make this casino a reality for our state, I am ecstatic for the Board’s decision and want to thank the Mayor McNamara and his team for all their work in this project,” said Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).
“While today’s action is not final approval, it does allow Hard Rock to move forward with and for us to get the temporary casino up and running,” he added.
Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) said, “I’m pleased with the gaming board’s decision to preliminarily approve the Rockford Casino. This project will bring millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs to the greater Rockford area.”
The Rockford City Council voted in favor of the plan from Hard Rock International in October 2019, after considering proposals from the downtown Rock River West Casino Group and Forest City Casino.
Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a gaming expansion bill into law on June 28, 2019, allowing a casino to be build in six areas in Illinois, including Rockford.
The Illinois Gaming Board had a deadline to approve or deny the project by October 2020, but opted to delay the approval as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular meetings throughout the year.
Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen said the $310 million casino project would create 1,200 permanent jobs and another 1,000 during construction.
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.
In development competition with a Rockford casino, the Ho-Chunk Nation announced plans to build a $405 million resort-casino in Beloit.