Illinois Gaming Board licenses owners of Hard Rock Casino, says project can move forward

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A temporary Hard Rock Casino at Giovanni’s can request approval to start construction, following a Wednesday ruling by the Illinois Gaming Board.

The board voted Wednesday to approve a supplier’s license for 815 Beltway Holdings, the company which owns the land where proposed Rockford’s Hard Rock Casino will be built.

“Today was a great day for the Rockford Casino project, and we’re excited that the process continues to move forward. We continue to work closely with the Illinois Gaming Board and once we receive approval with respect to the temporary casino, we will make an announcement about that process,” said Terry Dunleavy, the attorney for 815 Entertainment.

Wednesday’s ruling paves the way for a temporary casino apply to begin construction on both the temporary location, at the former Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, at 610 N Bell School Rd, and the permanent location at the former Clock Tower Resort location.

The IGB also approved 52 people and entities of 815 Entertainment, LLC including Sunil Puri, former Rockford Mayor Charles Box and Karen Nielsen, the wife of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen.  The IGB had said before they investigate and vet all of the investors and or owners behind the casino.

In April, the Illinois Gaming Board denied a temporary casino license to Giovanni’s after owner Joseph Castrogiovanni failed to report he had been arrested for shooting at an occupied car in his driveway, new records show.

As part of Rockford’s plan to bring a Hard Rock Casino to the city, Giovanni’s, 610 N Bell School Rd, was meant to serve as a temporary casino while the permanent casino complex was under construction.

Plan for a temporary casino at Giovannis. Photo: Hard Rock International

A license for the full casino project is still under consideration by the Illinois Gaming Board. But Wednesday’s ruling means 815 Entertainment can now apply to construct the Hard Rock Casino Rockford.

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.

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.

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