License Denial Due To Shooting Incident Shouldn’t Delay Hard Rock Casino Progress

Posted By Joe Boozell on May 11, 2021

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) denied Hard Rock Casino Rockford’s temporary license in April due to the proposed facility owner’s 2020 arrest in a shooting incident.

The details of the denial weren’t public record until recently.

However, Hard Rock’s permanent and temporary casino plans remain intact. To move progress along, 815 Entertainment, the investment group partnering with Hard Rock, will purchase the facility.

The site remains the same

Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center is the proposed site of the temporary Hard Rock Casino in Rockford.

Joseph Castrogiovanni, the owner, had failed to report the July shooting arrest to the IGB in a timely manner.

Castrogiovanni did not inform the IGB of the arrest until September. IGB rules require prompt notification of all arrests.

Police arrested him for “aggravated discharge of a firearm.” Castrogiovanni reportedly fired two shots into a car that was parked in the driveway of his private property. One of the bullets penetrated the car.

There were no injuries during the incident. Castrogiovanni pleaded guilty to “reckless conduct” in October and was sentenced to one year of probation.

Michael Iasparro, Castrogiovanni’s attorney, said the incident “stemmed from a reasonable fear for his (Castrogiovanni) and his wife’s safety.”

IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter said the reason for the denial was “based on conduct and associations that would jeopardize the integrity of gaming and discredit or attempt to discredit the state and Illinois gaming.”

Iasparro, in return, has requested a hearing with the board. He said that during Castrogiovanni’s regulatory interview, he was “asked dozens of questions about other individuals in the Rockford community, many of whom had names of Italian lineage, and many of whom have long passed.

“Simply put, Mr. and Mrs. Castrogiovanni do not have any affiliation or association with organized crime, Italian or otherwise,” Iasparro said.

What does this mean for Hard Rock Rockford casino?

In February, the IGB deemed Hard Rock Casino Rockford “preliminarily suitable” for a permanent license.

Hard Rock is still awaiting final approval from the IGB, however. And while this development is seemed like bad news for the temporary facility, the 815 Entertainment purchase should render the issue moot.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said that an ownership change won’t slow down the timeline at all.

“We are aware that the current owners of the temporary casino site will be selling the location to existing investors. We do not anticipate that this change in ownership will slow down the casino process.”

The plan is to build the Rockford casino as the site of the old Clock Tower Resort. It would create 1,200 permanent jobs and another 1,000 during construction.

No other Illinois casinos in the works

The 2019 gaming expansion bill included six new casino licenses for Illinois.

But as of now, zero licenses have been granted. And despite this hiccup for Hard Rock Rockford, it’s the furthest along in the process of any new applicant.

There are six new casino licenses up for grabs. They are in the following regions:

  • Rockford
  • Waukegan
  • Williamson County
  • Danville
  • South suburbs
  • Chicago

The IGB has not deemed any other applicant “preliminarily suitable” up to this point. That’s despite several groups applying in October 2019.

And, for competition’s sake, Hard Rock Rockford must hope that this won’t slow down the approval process even more.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and the Bureau of Indian Affairs recently gave final approval for a $405 million Beloit casino project, which is close to Rockford. The cities are about a half-hour drive apart.

If the Beloit casino opens before a Rockford casino, it could damage the latter in the long run.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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