Illinois Casino Proposal in Rockford Draws 3 Candidates

Illinois Casino Proposal in Rockford Draws 3 Candidates
By Jake Perper

On Sept. 23, three different applicants presented their proposals for a casino in Rockford, Illinois.

The trio of casino groups in attendance were Forest City, Hard Rock International, and Rock River West. Each held 45-minute presentations with question and answer session afterward.

According to Chicago CBS affiliate WIFR, the meeting took place as a public hearing in front of hundreds of community residents. For whichever proposal, or proposals as the case may be, accepted, it’ll be located only 90 miles from downtown Chicago.

Here is a look at the three proposals:

Forest City

Forest City was the first to present, and they brought forward the largest proposal of the three. However, details about the casino itself were light compared to the other two proposals, with a stronger emphasis on families.

“It gives us an opportunity to go beyond a casino to create an environment that is family entertainment combined with adult entertainment,” Tom LaSalle of LaSalle Development group said, according to Rock River Times. “We can separate those on the same site so you can have your family in a safe environment away from the casino.”

The Forest City proposal is a 136-acre plan with Wyndham hotel with 250 rooms, another 150-room hotel with a private operator, a 40,000 square-foot indoor waterpark, 10,000 square-foot outdoor water park, Luxe golf course, and various other entertainment options.

The biggest issue with the Forest City proposal is the distance from Rockford. Representatives said the casino would feature a shuttle service to help accommodate the planned 2,000 employees.

Hard Rock International

The Hard Rock International proposal includes a casino location just off I-90, the site of the former Rockford Clock Tower Resort that Hard Rock purchased in 2017.

The first phase would feature a centrally located casino and iconic Hard Rock Cafe. The casino would feature 1,500 slot machines and 55 gambling tables. During construction, a temporary casino would be located in Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center. The temporary casino would have 736 slot machines.

It would also include a Rock Shop involving family members of local icons Cheap Trick, and a Hard Rock Live! venue with 1,600 seats for music and entertainment. Construction of the entire facility would take approximately 18-24 months.

Hard Rock also announced plans to help support various local service entities should their bid be accepted.

Rock River West

The final presentation came from Rock River West and developer Gorman & Co. The proposal did not name an operator yet, but unveiled plans for a 250,000 square-foot casino that would take over an existing building in downtown Rockford. It was the only proposal not located on the east side of Rockford.

The casino would feature 1,200 slot machines, 200 table gaming seats, a Rock & Brews Family Restaurant, an aquarium, and 60-room hotel. They would plan to have a temporary casino open by 2022, with the permanent casino opening in 2024.

Rock River West also announced plans to invest in downtown as a whole, with Ron Clewer, the Illinois Market President for Gorman and Co. saying, "This is the opportunity, that's what this bill was crafted to do, to create the greatest economic impact for a community to come together."

Final Deadline

The deadline for the Rockford council members to approve the proposals is October 25. The city will be able to send multiple proposals to the Illinois Gaming Board for final approval. The final review by the state will reportedly take around nine months, according to Rock River Times.

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Jake Perper covers casino news for A veteran of more than a decade of sports writing, he has covered the Chicago Bears for the Bears Backer blog, and his stories have also appeared on, The Tampa Tribune, The Naples Daily News and Bleacher Report. He is also the leas scout for Prep Hoops Florida, based in Tampa.

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