ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — More people visited Rockford’s “Hard Rock: An Opening Act” last month than ever before. Nearly 45,000 people walked through the casino’s doors in July, according to numbers from the Illinois Gaming Board.

In the grand scheme of things, the income means more opportunity for everyone. Rockford’s mayor, Tom McNamara, says city plans for the funds will have the greatest long-term impact on the community.

“Right now, I think it’s doing everything we thought it would do,” adds McNamara.

Rockford’s temporary Hard Rock casino has been open since November 2021. It has proved to be a popular destination. So far this year, McNamara says the city has received more than $1 million from Hard Rock’s opening act.

McNamara explains, “Prior to this casino, not only did citizens want a casino for 30 years, but we had citizens going to Indiana, going to Wisconsin, going to Iowa to gamble, so all of this money was fleeing the state of Illinois and specifically fleeing the city of Rockford and I think we’re seeing right now how of that money was fleeing.”

According to McNamara, the dollars are being put to good use. City leaders allocated the first $1.5 million to Rockford Promise for the next 17 years. The support from the city is something Interim Executive Director, Kaylene Groh, says helped the organization expand.

“We started in 2016 and we gave out five full tuition scholarships at that time and now, only 6 years later, we will have more than 300 scholars in college together all that the same time this year, so the city’s involvement and their commitment to our organization has had a huge impact for local scholars,” says Groh.

As far as the progress on the casino’s permanent location, McNamara believes they’ll move rapidly.

McNamara goes on to say, “I think you’re going to be seeing land moved and leveled by the end of this year. I think you’ll see really the bulk of construction begin very early next spring,”

The city of Rockford gets 70% of the casino’s tax revenue. Winnebago county gets 20%, while Loves Park and Machesney Park get 5% each.