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Rockford leaders look to Chicago for help with casino expansion

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Mayor Tom McNamara and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce make their case for the Forest City.

Local leaders say now is the time for a casino in Rockford. With Beloit actively moving forward with its own gaming project, McNamara says Rockford has to act quickly.

On Monday, a letter for Chicago’s Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot was published in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Tribune.

It’s part of a campaign to urge Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and the General Assembly to approve gaming expansion, including casinos in Chicago and Rockford.

“It’s been well over 20 years that our community has wanted and working towards a casino,” Mayor Tom McNamara said. “We need the state legislature to act and bring the City of Rockford a casino.”

While part of the letter congratulates Lightfoot, McNamara and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce also want her support and partnership.

“We have spent the last two years building tremendous relationships with Governor Pritzker, Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton was just here a week ago,” said McNamara. “I think we bring a lot to any partner.”

Supporters say a casino could mean 800 to 1100 jobs and, with budget challenges in the near future, some financial relief for Rockford too.

“Making sure we have that new influx of money coming in, the $6 to $8 million, which certainly allows us to continue to do that and probably even drive down that property tax burden,” said McNamara.

The letter also addresses dollars driven out of Rockford and Chicago to Wisconsin and Indiana gaming sites.

“We see that as a destination that will bring more visitors to our community, which again, brings in additional revenue just to provide some new forms of revenue for relief to the taxpayers, as well as assist our local government,” said President and CEO of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce Einar Forsman.

Governor Pritzker has expressed his support for sports betting in Illinois, but McNamara believes casinos should be included in that initiative.

“We can’t support sports gaming gambling without having expansion of land based casinos,” said McNamara. “We must have that expansion, otherwise I don’t want to see sports gaming move forward.”

Governor Pritzker also received the letter.

Mayor Tom McNamara will be in Springfield this week to address the casino among other topics with lawmakers.

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