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Casino plans advance in Rockford

A long-planned Hard Rock Casino in northern Illinois is one step closer to reality.

The Illinois Gaming Board recently advanced a proposal for the casino in Rockford, accepting a list of investors and allowing proposals to be submitted for construction on both a temporary and permanent facility.

“My understanding is it’s only now a formality,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. “There’s been some preliminary things done. They need to submit, I guess, one more drawing and my understanding is that is something that they believe can be done in a matter of weeks. I don’t see a scenario in which a temporary casino would not be open by the fall.”

Syverson long advocated for a gaming license for Rockford and was a leading advocate of a 2019 gambling expansion package that allows for up to six new casinos in Illinois.

“For all practical purposes, after two years, it sounds like we’re finally at the point where they can at least move forward with finishing up the remodeling and getting things going for the temporary casino,” Syverson said.

“Throughout the entire casino licensing process, the Board has meticulously followed Board rules and statues,” said Joe Miller, director of policy for the Illinois Gaming Board. “The Board will continue to follow the process outline in Rule 230 when reviewing construction plans for an applicant for a casino license.”

Before submitting the city’s application to the Gaming Board, Rockford leaders coalesced around a single potential site, along Interstate 90 on the city’s east side, and a single operator, Hard Rock.

The plan includes a 65,000-square-foot casino, a Hard Rock Café, and a 1,600-seat Hard Rock Live venue.

“Today was a great day for the Rockford Casino project, and we’re excited that the process continues to move forward,” said Terry Dunleavy, attorney for 815 Entertainment, the investment group established to help bring the Hard Rock Casino to Rockford. “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.”

It’s been nearly around twenty months since Rockford officials submitted their proposal for the casino to the Board. Syverson says that wait has had consequences.

“Clearly the costs have gone up and that’s the frustrating thing,” Syverson said. “Not only have costs gone up, but the city and the state have lost millions of dollars because of the Gaming Board’s slow-moving and delays to get something approved.”

The Board also voted to advance a proposal for a casino in downstate Williamson County. Meanwhile, work continues on potential licenses for casinos in Danville, Waukegan and south suburban Cook County. A potential Chicago site has not yet been determined.

“There are other locations that are significantly further delayed than what Rockford’s was,” Syverson said. “Who knows how long it’s going to be? They are so much further yet behind on those. And that’s unfortunate because not only does it hurt those particular communities, but it hurts the state of Illinois.”

This article was originally posted on Casino plans advance in Rockford

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