Three groups ready to go all in on Rockford casino

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – Three groups say they are ready to go all in on a Rockford casino. Just two months after an Illinois Casino Expansion Bill was signed into law, Friday was deadline day for proposals.

The first, and flashiest, came from the Hard Rock Casino Group. They hope put a casino at the site of the old Clock Tower Resort, off of Interstate 90. Miles Nielsen, son of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, rolled a roadie case containing the elements of the proposal into city hall.

“It’s seven years of work. That’s seven years of a lot of binders,” said Nielsen. “There’s a lot of information in that case. I pushed it down the street, and it’s pretty heavy, but it’s really a special day and we’re hoping for the best.”

Next came a proposal from the Rock River West Casino Group, from Gorman and Company. They have plans for a downtown casino and aquarium, on the west side of the river.

“We’ve been conditioned to believe it should be on the east side,” said Ron Clewer, Illinois Market President for Gorman and Company. “We’re saying it should be somewhere else.”

Then came a surprise third group. Over the past month, Kjell Kaashagen and Henry Leong have been working with Luna Entertainment on the Forest City Casino proposal.

“We had 135 acres that we were looking at developing some other things on there,” said Forest City Casino Partner Kjell Kaashagen. “And when the casino thing came up, talked to Henry and said ‘Hey, let’s make a run at it.'”

Their land is located south of the MercyHealth Riverside Hospital that opened earlier this year.

“We’re in the entertainment business. So, you know, kind of like a Dave and Busters style of entertainment that the whole family can enjoy, not just gaming,” said Forest City Casino Director Henry Leong.

“We’re looking at hotels, indoor water parks, golfing,” added Kaashagen.

“If you just want a boring casino, then that’s not us,” said Leong.

They are excited to potentially work with nearby Sportscore Two.

“With the Sportscore being across the street, we’re gonna add to that venue as well,” said Kaashagen. “So, it’s going to be a total complex of sports and entertainment.”

Up next, the City of Rockford will review the proposals. A public hearing will then be held on September 23rd. The City is able to send more than one plan to the Illinois Gaming Board, who will make the ultimate decision on which casino gets built in Rockford.

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