Ceremony to be held Wedsnesday

Hard Rock applying for Illinois sports betting license as it readies to break ground on permanent Rockford casino

Hard Rock's temporary Rockford Casino.
Reading time 2:03 min

Hard Rock has become the latest gaming operator to apply for a sports betting license in Illinois. According to the Illinois Gaming Board’s website, the Florida-based gaming and entertainment giant’s sports wagering brand, Hard Rock Sportsbook, is seeking both retail and mobile licenses, adding to the growing queue of applicants in the Prairie State.

Hard Rock’s license application was submitted on August 23 by 815 Entertainment, the local ownership group for Hard Rock’s Rockford Casino. The company’s status as an applicant indicates that the IGB has received complete application materials, although Hard Rock has yet to receive approval from the regulator.

The move comes as Hard Rock prepares to break ground on a permanent venue Wednesday for its Rockford casino, located near the Wisconsin border. The gaming and entertainment giant has been operating a temporary casino at the location since last November, offering only electronic gaming devices and slots for the time being.

Rendering for permanent Rockford casino

Seminole Hard Rock Digital had previously applied for a Management Services Provider permit, required for a mobile license. The company put forth materials on August 16, seeking to join the expanding list of operators vying for new licenses.

Illinois sports bettors currently have seven options at their disposal, but this could change going forward. Unibet submitted an application back in November 2020, meaning it has been in the queue for over a year, while WynnBET put in paperwork last November. The gaming board has also seen applications from Circa and Bally Bet to conduct mobile betting tethered to land-based casinos on May 16 and September 12 respectively.

Hard Rock prepares for groundbreaking

Hard Rock’s plans for Ilinois also include the opening of its permanent Rockford casino in November 2023, with work to commence after Wednesday’s groundbreaking. Hard Rock execs will be joined by local leaders and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen at the ceremony, which comes ten months after the opening of Rockford Casino: A Hard Rock Opening Act.

Just two weeks ago, the Illinois Gaming Board gave the OK for foundation and utilities work to begin at the former site of the Clock Tower Resort. Since November 2021, the temporary casino has raked in more than $25 million in revenue, according to regulators. 

Hard Rock Sportsbook

“Our opening act in Rockford has been fantastic, but I know the entire Rockford community is just as excited as we are for the main show,” Jon Lucas, COO of Hard Rock International, said in a news release. “Rockford’s energy has surpassed expectations and it’s no secret they are really ready to rock. Building on that momentum [...] we’re ready to begin the next chapter.”

Hard Rock might be feeling pressured to open its permanent casino as soon as possible given the Ho-Chunk Nation has plans to break ground on its own $400 million casino over the state line in Beloit, Wisconsin. That property would be located less than 25 miles from Rockford.

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