Rockford’s Hard Rock Casino takes next step, presents to Illinois Gaming Board

CHICAGO (WREX) — Rockford’s Hard Rock Casino takes another step toward reality Wednesday by presenting the project to the Illinois Gaming Board in what is called a Preliminary Suitability Presentation.

The virtual meeting allowed Hard Rock to make its case to the gaming board and show off its proposed permanent property, along with a temporary facility that could be built at Giovanni’s in Rockford.

The $310 million project plans to bring between 800 and 1,000 permanent jobs once built and 1,200 construction jobs from local contractors to build it.

Hard Rock’s Chief Operating Officer Jon Lucas gave most of Wednesday’s presentation, highlighting Hard Rock’s brand around the world, and Rockford’s potential casino. Dan Fischer of 815 Entertainment LLC, the group behind the project says once it is built, it will change the area.

“The idea of a Hard Rock facility, in partnership with local Rock & Roll Hall of Fame star Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, creates a powerful combination that will forever ingrain the power of music, entertainment and excitement in this project,” Fischer told the board.

If approved, the permanent site will be built at the former Clocktower site on East State Street near I-90. Lucas told the gaming board it will have three bars, an entertainment venue that will seat 1,600, 1,500 slots, 55 tables, a sports book, a steak house, a noodle bar, a shop with Rick Nielsen memorabilia and more.

While that project is being built, if approved, the plan is to transform Giovanni’s into a temporary location on North Bell School Road. That $65 million investment could be open 90 days after approval. Hard Rock intends to operate it for 18 to 24 months until the permanent location is built.

“We are pleased to get this part of the process underway, and we look forward to working with the state of Illinois and the Illinois Gaming Board on the remaining steps,” Lucas said in a statement to 13 WREX. “We are excited to see this amazing project become a reality, for the city of Rockford, the state of Illinois and the hundreds of jobs it will create from the time we break ground through opening.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, the gaming board did not make a decision on approving Hard Rock’s preliminary suitability presentation. It plans to do that at a meeting on February 4 at 3 p.m.. But, it is important to note that determination is not the final approval.

Board members originally had one year to approve the license itself, that deadline was October 28, 2020. Instead, the IGB gave itself a six-month extension due to COVID-19. A final determination is expected before the end of April.

The gaming board is set to meet again on March 10 and April 21, both in the six-month timeframe the gaming board gave itself to approve Rockford’s casino.

Until the casino is approved, no construction can happen at the proposed site on East State Street and Interstate 90, and the temporary location at Giovanni’s on North Bell School Road cannot happen.

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