The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) deemed the Hard Rock Casino Rockford project “preliminarily suitable” on Thursday afternoon, a key step toward adding an 11th casino in Illinois.
IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter reminded attendees during the special session that while this is preliminary step, “it is not a guarantee for license.”
While it’s not a final approval, Hard Rock is now one step closer to securing one. It can now begin constructing the casino and ordering gambling machines.
Last week, officials from Hard Rock and 815 Entertainment presented to the board.
Fruchter did elude to an unrelated investigation of one of the key players of Hard Rock. Fruchter stated that he encourages 815 Entertainment to be cooperative and quick in resolving questions from the IGB.
Who is Dan Fischer?
Dan Fischer, a key person in the development group, is currently being investigated by the IGB for another matter.
Fischer owns Illinois Cafe & Service Co., which runs Dotty’s, a chain of slot machine parlors. The company bought another group of parlors in 2018, in what has been alleged in court as a “sham transaction.”
The Fischer investigation is ongoing, and the IGB hasn’t taken any disciplinary action yet.
“It could go either way,” the gaming board’s spokesman, Joe Miller, said prior to today’s special session. “We don’t comment on any potential, current or ongoing investigation.”
Here’s what we know about the Hard Rock
The Hard Rock Casino Rockford would be in Rockford, the fifth-largest city in Illinois.
It’s about an hour-and-a-half northwest of Chicago.
The casino would feature 64,000 feet of gaming space. It projects to generate more than 1,000 full- and part-time jobs once operational.
In addition to gaming space, the proposal includes a 1,600-seat entertainment venue. Hard Rock would also plan to operate a temporary gaming facility if it receives final approval.
The proposed site is at I-90 and State Street. An estimated 65,000 cars drive past the site each day.
Hard Rock International is one of the most well-known casino brands in the world, and there are currently 29 Hard Rock hotels and 11 Hard Rock casinos that operate.
The proposal also states that the casino will make a minimum $7 million annual payment to the city of Rockford.
Are more casinos on the way to Illinois?
The 2019 gaming expansion bill allows six new casinos to be built in Illinois in various regions. But it’s been a slow process ever since Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill into law.
Most development groups submitted their initial applications in October 2019, but this is the first new casino that’s been found preliminarily suitable by the board.
Rockford was one of six regions included in casino expansion. The others are:
- Williamson County
- South suburbs
As of now, there are pending applications for the Williamson County, Waukegan and south suburban licenses.
According to IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter, these applicants should have a preliminary suitability finding by around April.
Here are the active casino license applicants:
- CDI-RSG Waukegan, LLC d/b/a Rivers Waukegan Casino (Waukegan License)
- Full House Resorts, Inc. d/b/a American Place (Waukegan License)
- Lakeside Casino, LLC d/b/a North Point Casino (Waukegan License)
- Southland LIVE, LLC d/b/a Southland Live (South Suburban License)
- South Suburban Development, LLC (South Suburban License)
- Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort, LLC (Williamson County License)
- Wind Creek, LLC (South Suburban License)
Chicago and Danville, meanwhile, aren’t as far along as any of these groups.
We know that Danville, on the other hand, will have Golden Nugget branding. But it still hasn’t submitted materials to the IGB, and we’ve seen how long the process takes even after applicants do so.