VIRTUAL TOUR: Look inside new Rockford Casino

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Hard Rock officials gave an in-person look at the Rockford Casino, the city’s temporary casino location in the former Giovanni’s restaurant on Bell School Road.

The casino was previously announced to open in October, and officials said it is now on track to open in early November.

“We have to work with our regulators. We have to work through the steps, and that process [to open],” said Hard Rock Casino President Geno Iafrate.

“We’re opening a casino, from a banquet hall to a casino, within about 100 days, which I haven’t checked, but it might be a record,” he added.

The temporary casino will be open for up to two years while the permanent casino is built on the grounds of the former Clock Tower Resort. The permanent casino will stand on E. State Street at the I-90 interchange.

The Giovanni’s location underwent an $8 million renovation, and will holds over 600 slot machines; the Midway Bar sports bar; and the Rock River Bar and Grill restaurant.

“Everybody knows it was a banquet hall, so we did have an opportunity to not have to come in and completely go from the ground up. We were able to come in and add renovation and add some new color, new carpet, and put in the gaming devices,” he said.

It will not have live table games.

“We’ll have electronic blackjack, electronic roulette, and at some point, in the not too distant future, electronic crabs,” Iafrate said.

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.

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.

A license for the full casino project is still under consideration by the Illinois Gaming Board.

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.

Hard Rock is still looking for cocktail servers, kitchen staff, janitorial staff, and more. Applications are accepted on their website.

“Right now, we’re doing the job training inside the facility, and that number, right now, is about 300,” Iafrate said. “We don’t stop. So, if you’re a rock star and want to work at the Hard Rock, keep coming, because we’ll keep taking you.”

The casino is also working with neighboring businesses to accommodate parking.

Wendy Kasche, Hard Rock Casino Rockford’s Vice President of Finance, said, “I know that we are working on some remote parking options and that we’ll have some shuttle bus options that we’re looking into as well, to manage that process.”

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