ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A dream decades in the making came to fruition Wednesday morning, as Rockford’s Hard Rock Casino launched its “Opening Act.”
Hard Rock staff, as well as city and county leaders, celebrated the milestone at the old Giovanni’s, 610 N. Bell School Rd. The project has already created hundreds of new jobs, and the company vowed to give back to the community in many ways.
The casino’s parking lot was packed full Wednesday, an hour before the doors opened, with hopefuls vying to leave a little richer. When the ribbon was cut and doors were opened to the public, the line wrapped around the building. Many people said how excited they are that there is finally a casino in Rockford.
Lori Johnson and Mary Jo Leatherby were some of the first people in line to get into the “Rockford Casino: A Hard Rock Opening Act,” which is filled with over 600 slot machines.
“No more two hour bus trips, it’s right here, 5 minutes and it’s here, yay,” Johnson and Leatherby said. “Oh the lobster, I like poker, the poker machines, that’s me.”
Jon Lucas, Chief Operating Officer of Hard Rock International, said that there is so much people can do.
“It doesn’t look like a temporary facility, number two, we’ve a couple of nice food and beverage outlets, and lastly, it’s a safe, comfortable and secure environment,” Lucas said.
Linda McCarville and her daughter came from South Beloit. and said that having a casino in Rockford means they no longer have to travel far to gamble.
“Usually, my daughter and I go to Iowa, but now that it’s here, we’re coming here,” McCarville said. “Why go all the way there, we might make a trip out there, but other than that, I’m going to come here, it’s close.”
After checking out the casino, McCarville said that she was impressed, and she came out a big winner.
“There’s quite a few machines. I thought all the machines were going to be taken, but they weren’t, so that’s good, it’s not that crowded in there. I loved that so, yeah, it’s perfect,” McCarville said. “It’s very exciting. I only started with $40 and I ended up with $362.60, and that’s pretty lucky”
Others hoped that they could run with the same luck.
“We’re happy. If we can just win today, we’ll be even more happy,” Johnson and Leatherby said.
The casino is open 24/7, and if gambling is not one’s thing, there are two restaurants inside as well.