Rockford Hard Rock Investor Denied Gaming License Over Shooting Incident

Posted on: May 20, 2021, 11:25h. 

Last updated on: May 20, 2021, 01:07h.

A prominent Rockford, Ill. restaurateur and investor in the city’s forthcoming Hard Rock Casino was denied a casino supplier license because of a prior shooting incident, the Rockford Register Star reports.

Rockford Hard Rock
Joseph Castrogiovanni, seen in a public meeting above, was a pillar of the community until he was charged with reckless conduct last July. (Image: Rockford Register Star)

Joseph Castrogiovanni, 69, owns Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center in Rockford. The plan is to invest $8 million to transform Castrogiovanni’s building into a 37,790-square-foot temporary casino. It would house 736 slot machines while the main casino is being built.

But in April, Castrogiovanni was snubbed by the Illinois Gaming Commission because of unspecified “conduct and associations that would jeopardize the integrity of gaming and discredit, or tend to discredit, the state and Illinois gaming.”

The decision caused perplexity in Rockford, where Castrogiovanni is considered to be of good character and a pillar of the community.

His lawyer, Michael Iasparro, wrote in documents filed with the Illinois Gaming Board that Castrogiovanni has for decades “served on numerous nonprofit and charitable boards, has tirelessly supported law enforcement, and has run a successful restaurant and banquet business.

“The suggestion that Mr. Castrogiovanni is unsuitable for licensure is wholly inconsistent with the character of the man,” he added.

Trigger Happy Restaurateur

Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request lodged with the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department, the Register Star has been able to fill in the blanks.

It appears that last July, two men looking for a house party accidentally found themselves driving down the half-mile driveway leading to the Castrogiovanni family’s private residence.

Castrogovianni was alerted to their presence by his security system and went out to meet them armed with a loaded 9mm Sig Sauer handgun, according to the police report.

One of the vehicle’s occupants told police he began to roll down the window to ask whether there was a party going on at the house. But before he could speak, he was met with a “What the f— are you doing?” and gunfire.

The men backed up and sped away, later calling police from a gas station in Rockford.

Castrogiovanni also told the police about the incident, claiming he had intended to fire warning shots into the air because of “a reasonable fear for his and his wife’s safety.”  But one of the bullets had pierced a rear passenger door and ended up in the pouch on the back of the front passenger seat.

Reckless Conduct

Castrogiovanni was charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct. But it was his failure to report the incident to the gaming board for a whole month that sunk his license application.

He has since requested a hearing with the regulator where he will attempt to “clear his good name and impeccable reputation.”

In the meantime, Castrogiovanni will have to bid goodbye to his stake in 815 Entertainment, the company established to unite Hard Rock International with local investors.

The license refusal has also triggered clauses that will allow 815 Entertainment to acquire Giovanni’s, along with Castrogiovannis’ stake in the company.

Developers said in April they envisage no disruption to the casino timeline.