Rockford, Illinois City Council Signs Off on Hard Rock as Preferred Casino Bidder

Posted on: October 15, 2019, 08:33h. 

Last updated on: October 15, 2019, 10:13h.

Hard Rock International is on course to build a casino in Rockford, Ill. and now awaits approval from state regulators after the city council there recently approved the operator’s bid. The company was one of three competing to bring a gaming venue to the Northern Illinois city.

Hard Rock topped two other firms looking to build a casino in Rockford, Ill. (Image: Philadelphia Inquirer)

The gambling expansion package signed into law in the Prairie State earlier this year allows for the addition of up to six casinos, including one in Rockford. Hard Rock, which operates 11 casinos, is looking to build a gaming property near an Interstate 90 (I-90) on-ramp that will include 1,500 slot machines, 55 table games, and an entertainment area with capacity of 1,600.

Under the agreement, the City finds that the project is in the best interest of the City and State,” said the Rockford city council in a statement. “The project will combat community blight and improve the quality of life; support and promote tourism in the City and State; and provide additional tax revenue.”

The city council’s seal of approval on Hard Rock’s bid comes just days after Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara (D) and city staff endorsed the proposal. Rockford will now bring the plan to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB).

Fierce Competition

Hard Rock competed against two other companies – Wisconsin real estate developer Gorman & Co. and Forest City – on the Rockford casino effort. In September, McNamara and city staff highlighted Hard Rock’s plan to generate at least $7 million per year in revenue for the city, while pushing for the council to approve that bid.

Gorman’s bid was turned back because, as McNamara put it, the company hadn’t yet secured a gaming operator, nor had it submitted a complete financing package. The real estate company was eyeing a downtown location for its Rockford gaming property.

City officials cooled on the Forest City plan because it lacked financing details, which the policymakers viewed as risky to the project’s ultimate success.

Not only was there competition to woo Rockford lawmakers, Illinois wants to fast-track the gaming venue there because a tribal property is in the works in Beloit, Wisconsin, which isn’t far from Rockford.

Politicians in the Land of Lincoln are betting the Rockford venue can be built faster than the competing Wisconsin property and that the Hard Rock brand carries enough cache to keep gamblers from crossing state lines.

Plenty Of Payments

In addition to the guaranteed $7 million annual payment to Rockford, Hard Rock is pledging to cover various temporary and permanent casino fees. The company will pay 15 percent of net income, but not less than $1.82 million, to the city over the course of the venue’s first 12 months of operation, with those numbers declining to five percent and not less than $1.07 million in the subsequent 12 months.

Permanent casino payments will be “an amount equal to 1% of ‘Adjusted Receipts’ (casino and sports wagering gaming revenues) during the first 24 months of operations, and 0.5% of Adjusted Receipts during each subsequent 12 months,” according to the city council.