Hard Rock Rockford Gets Approval from Illinois Officials for Temporary Casino

Posted on: June 27, 2021, 11:55h. 

Last updated on: June 28, 2021, 10:18h.

The Illinois Gaming Board has given developers approval to build a temporary casino in Rockford. That’s according to a statement issued by the city’s mayor on Friday.

Hard Rock Rockford
Hard Rock Rockford t-shirts are on display at an info center for the planned casino in the northern Illinois city. In a few months, they’ll likely be available at a temporary casino that the state’s gaming board has approved. (Image Hard Rock Casino Rockford)

While more approvals will be necessary before the short-term venue opens, the news means the city 90 miles west of Chicago is that much closer to opening a Hard Rock Casino.

Of the 6 casinos that were approved in the casino expansion bill in 2019, we are the first to begin construction!” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara in a statement posted on the city’s Twitter feed. “This is a huge accomplishment!”

According to a statement from state Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), construction on the temporary casino could take place as early as this week.

Developers chose a location that formerly served as a restaurant and convention center for the initial casino. It’s owned by a family that was initially part of the 815 Entertainment LLC investment team.

That facility could operate for up to two years, the senator said.

“For more than 20 years, I have worked to bring this project to fruition, knowing that it will have such a positive economic impact locally,” Syverson said in his statement. “After so long, it is very rewarding to see this project gain real momentum.”

The Rockford Register Star reported construction on the first venue, expected to hold about 730 slot machines, is expected to take about three months.

According to documentation submitted to the IGB from 815 Entertainment, the temporary casino is less than a mile away from the location of the $310 million permanent venue on the east side of town.

Restaurant Owner’s License Denied

In April, the IGB denied a gaming license to Joseph Castrogiovanni, who owns the restaurant and convention center site where the temporary casino will be built.

The Register Star reported that Castrogiovanni failed to reveal to the board in a timely manner that he was charged with a misdemeanor reckless conduct charge in July 2020. At that time, Castrogiovanni approached a car that had driven onto his family’s property. He told police he meant to shoot a warning shot, but one of the bullets hit the car, which contained two people. That bullet landed in a pouch behind the front passenger seat.

Castrogiovanni was a part of 815 Entertainment, but the denial led to the company buying out the family and purchasing the building.

The IGB also has investigated another gaming business owned by Dan Fischer, the managing partner of 815 Entertainment.

Developers are expected to invest about $8 million into the facility once known as Giovanni’s.

Rockford Files: What the City Will Get from Hard Rock

Once the temporary casino opens, it will trigger the start of payments to the city of Rockford.

According to the information submitted to the IGB, the casino will pay the city at least $7 million each calendar year. It will also make payments based on the net income of the temporary and permanent establishments.

While the temporary casino is open, Rockford will get an amount equal to at least 15 percent of the net revenue, and no less than $1.82 million for the first 12 months it’s open. For subsequent years the temp venue remains open, the city gets 5 percent of net income, but no less than $1.07 million.

Once the permanent casino opens, the city gets funding equivalent to 1 percent of the adjusted casino and sports betting revenues during the first two years. After that, the year amount is equal to .5 percent of those annual totals.

The permanent casino is expected to have 2,000 gaming seats, an event and convention center, and six restaurants. It’s expected to create about 1,000 full-time jobs or the equivalent. Each full-time employee will make more than $37,000, according to the developer’s submission to the IGC.

Senator: Keeping It Simple Worked

Rockford was the first site approved by the IGB for one of the new casinos allowed under the 2019 expanded gaming law. The board granted preliminary approval in February.

Syverson said the decision to pick a single applicant to present to the state instead of a slate of candidates is paying off.

“While other applications are still pending, we are seeing real progress with the casino, and I am so grateful that we had the community support in this decision,” the senator said.

In late March, the IGB issued a solicitation seeking proposals for a consultant to help analyze bids for the Waukegan and Chicago South Suburbs casinos. On May 25, the board awarded a three-year contract with up to $750,000 to Christiansen Capital Advisors LLC. With renewals, the contract could last for 10 years, according to the state’s award form.

The New York firm was one of four bidders on the project.