ROCKFORD (WREX) — History was made in Rockford on Wednesday as Hard Rock opened the doors to their temporary Rockford casino.
Featuring over 37,000 square feet of gaming space, A Hard Rock Opening Act offers more than 625 of the newest slots and top-graded Inter block Electronic Table Games.
In addition to entertainment, the casino is also home to two unique restaurants, including an upscale and casual option, as well as a pop-up retail shop, offering the brand’s signature Rock Shop merchandise.
“We knew from day one that Rockford was the best fit for our casino, thanks to their energy and passion for this project as well as our great working relationship with local leaders,” said Jon Lucas, COO of Hard Rock International. “As this project moved forward, we made it a priority to bring on new vendors and team members from the greater Rockford area to further ingrain ourselves in this community and reaffirm the commitment we made from day one to be an active member of this region for years to come.”
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara spoke at the ribbon cutting of the casino on Wednesday and said this is just the beginning.
“When you look at this amazing development, you hired local Rockfordians, you followed through, you used local contractors, local minority contractors and you did it so well, I just want to say thank you to your commitment to our community,” McNamara said.
Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, people lined the doors and waited to go inside. Within an hour of opening, one patron left a winner.
“It’s very exciting. I only started with $40 and I ended up with $362.60 so that’s pretty lucky!” Linda McCarville, from South Beloit, told 13 WREX.
McCarville says she normally travels to to Iowa with her family to hit the machines, but now says she’s staying local and encouraging out of state friends and family to do the same.
Another patron we talked to said she thinks the casino is great for the area.
“Keeping people wanting to come to Rockford and having new things for them to do. I think it’s going to help all of the restaurants in the area as well and I think it’s really going to grow,” Rhonda Sundeen, from Roscoe, told 13 WREX.
The temporary casino was long in the works for the Stateline and patrons say it will draw in visitors from around Northern Illinois.
“I think it’s going to draw people from all of the other communities. I think from Chicago from the north lots of people will check it out and enjoy the new casino,” said Sundeen.
In June of 2019, Gov. JB Pritzker signed the gaming expansion bill into law, opening the door for six areas in Illinois to open casinos—including Rockford.
In October of 2019, city leaders voted in favor of a plan from Hard Rock International to submit to the Illinois Gaming Board.
The decision to approve or deny the project was supposed to be made by October of 2020, but was pushed back six months due to COVID-19.
In June of 2020, the casino’s temporary location got the green light from the IGB to begin construction inside the former Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center.
The temporary casino will be open for up to two years while the permanent location is being built at the former Clock Tower site off E. State St., near the I-90 exit/entrance ramp.