Lawmakers in Springfield still haven’t been able to move forward with legislation to make a Rockford casino a reality.
Local state representatives and Rockford’s mayor will be in Chicago on Wednesday to make a push for it during a hearing on gaming expansion in the state.
“We continue, year after yar, to be promised that this could be the year to have a casino,” Mayor Tom McNamara said.
For the last 30 years, the State of Illinois has only allowed for 10 casinos statewide. Mayor McNamara will meet with lawmakers to testify on Rockford’s behalf.
“My hope is that the legislature will have the courage to move this legislation forward once again, expand gaming and bring in some much needed revenue to the City of Rockford,” McNamara said.
A gaming expansion bill failed to gain enough support during the spring session, but lawmakers hope the hearings will build consensus behind legislation that could be passed after the November elections.
Rockford is in a race with Beloit to build a casino just across the Wisconsin state line.
“We’re seeing Ho Chunk Casino wanting to build a $450 million hotel complex just 15-20 minutes from us,” McNamara said.
State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) says the time crunch that Rockford is facing needs to be stressed to the gaming body.
“That means we lose a whole year on construction, and that becomes a real problem,” Syverson said. “I’m hoping that those going tomorrow are going to stress the fact that we don’t have time to play games with this.”
Ultimately, Syverson says gaming expansion in the Forest City will bring economic growth and jobs.
“[A casino could bring] millions of dollars a year in revenue to the city and to the county, which takes pressure off of property tax payers. It [could add] a couple hundred of good paying jobs,” Syverson said.
Tomorrow’s hearing will be one of two that will happen. The next is scheduled for October.