Officials to push for Rockford casino at Chicago gaming summit

In Illinois, the push for a Rockford casino continues as the mayor and local state representatives of the Land of Lincoln travel to Chicago on Wednesday for a hearing on gaming expansion.

According to…

The midwestern state that borders Indiana in the east and the Mississippi River in the west has only allowed for 10 casinos statewide over the last three decades.

Few and far between:

Located on the Illinois River, Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino opened in 1991 as did Argosy Casino Alton (formerly Argosy’s Alton Belle Casino) and they are the state’s oldest casinos. Located in the northern suburb of Chicago, Des Plaines, Rivers Casino opened in 2011 and is the “newest” casino in Illinois.

“We continue, year after year, to be promised that this could be the year to have a casino.”

Rockford Mayor, Tom McNamara, will reportedly testify on the northern Illinois city’s behalf when he meets with lawmakers today.

McNamara said…

“My hope is that the legislature will have the courage to move this legislation forward once again, expand gaming and bring in some much needed revenue to the City of Rockford.”

Failed efforts at gaming expansion:

Illin 7BALL CC ois lawmakers have been working on a gaming expansion bill for years as an effort to raise money for state and local governments. SB0007, sponsored by Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), would have allowed for six new riverboat casinos to open in Chicago, parts of the suburbs, Danville and Rockford. The failed measure would have also expanded horse racing and was focused on preventing the proliferation of small video gambling parlors in strip malls.

Opponents of the measure including Dan Clausner of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, told lawmakers at a House committee hearing on May 28 that additional riverboat gambling would hurt small businesses that offer video gambling and who are “just marginally making it.”

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Other opponents said that any gambling expansion would be cannibalistic and self-defeating.

The bill came up one vote short of the six needed to advance. Lawmakers are hoping that during the hearing they are able to gain enough support for legislation so that the measure could be passed after the midterm elections in November.

The race to beat Beloit:

In 2016, the Ho-Chunk Nation submitted an application for a casino project for the city of Beloit to the Department of the Interior for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to review this year.

State Senator, Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), said at the time that the $405.5 million casino project located just across the state line “would devastate Rockford.” He also commented that revenue lost by the city’s convention center and other businesses due to the new casino would be substantial.

The senator now says that the significance of the clock ticking down needs to be communicated to the gaming body.

Syverson said, “That means we lose a whole year on construction, and that becomes a real problem.”

“I’m hoping that those going tomorrow are going to stress the fact that we don’t have time to play games with this,” he added.

Jobs and revenue:

If the Ho-Chunk Nation’s project receives the green light, tribal officials say the city of Beloit could see an additional 1,500 jobs, a 600-room hotel, and a casino with 2,200 gaming machines and 50 table games. Also included in the massive project, a 40,000-square-foot water park, and 30,000-square-foot conference center/entertainment space.

Syverson said…

“[A casino could bring] millions of dollars a year in revenue to the city and to the county, which takes pressure off of property tax payers. It [could add] a couple hundred of good paying jobs.”

The hearing in Chicago today is one of two, with the other reportedly scheduled for October.

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