ard Rock Casino Rockford presented its case on Wednesday for the Illinois Gaming Board to preliminarily find its company and $310 million casino proposal suitable for a license. The city of Rockford and 815 Entertainment LLC — the company that unites local and regional investors with Hard Rock International — await the Gaming Board's decision, expected February 4.
Chief investor Dan Fischer, 815 Entertainment Manager and owner of Dotty's Gambling Cafe chain, said the company was proud and humbled to have been chosen by Rockford over two other proposed casino projects that sought the city's sole license, Rockford Register Star reports. Fischer said working with Hard Rock International gave his company a clear advantage and access to a wealth of experience.
"The idea of a Hard Rock facility and partnership with local Rock & Roll Hall of Fame star Rick Nielsen of the band Cheap Trick creates a powerful combination that will forever ingrain the power of music, entertainment and excitement in this project," Fischer told board members during a virtual meeting. "The proposed site of the project is the former Clock Tower Resort. The Hard Rock brand will transform this iconic piece of property that has local historical significance, tremendous visibility and access from I-90 with nearly 70,000 cars per day."
Plans are for a 65,000-square-foot casino, a Hard Rock Café and a 1,600-seat Hard Rock Live venue. It is expected to generate 1,200 construction jobs and up to 1,000 permanent jobs at the casino complex. Fischer said he expects a temporary slots-only casino to open at Giovanni's Restaurant & Convention Center within 90 days of approval while construction begins at the former Clock Tower Resort location blocks away on East State Street.
With a brand like Hard Rock — which operates 240 venues in 69 countries, including 12 casinos — Fischer said he expects the casino, restaurant and live music venue to reach potential visitors well beyond the borders of Illinois. Fischer told the board that "more than 40% of equity capital is coming from women (and) minority persons that far exceed the statutory goals required."
A finding that an investor or two are unsuitable is unlikely to derail the project. Hard Rock International Chief Operating Officer Jon Lucas said Hard Rock would step up to fill any financial gap. And Fischer said other investors are willing to invest more in the company as well.
Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said that the board would meet on Feb. 4 in closed session to discuss the suitability of 815 Entertainment LLC, Hard Rock, the investors and their proposed casino. Afterward, the board plans to vote in open session.
Approval would mean overcoming a key hurdle on the path to final approval of a license, said Cezar Froelich, a partner in the Chicago law firm Taft Law who served as a consultant for Rockford. But he said there remain several more steps in the approval process. If the proposal is found suitable, Hard Rock will be required to submit a detailed plan for the operations of the temporary and permanent casino locations. If the gaming operational plan is approved, the Gaming Board would give the company permission to proceed with construction.
Before opening, there would be a "final practice gaming session" held at the casino. The board or its staff would observe the operations of the casino to make sure it complies with state laws and standards. If successful, a final license would be considered afterward.