Beloit casino could cost Rockford

Friday 17th April 2020

ROCKFORD -- A Ho-Chunk Nation casino in Beloit could mean less gaming revenue for the city of Rockford.

Rockford in October signed a host community agreement with Hard Rock International and its local partners for a $310 million, 65,000-square-foot casino, a Hard Rock Cafe and a 1,600-seat Hard Rock Live entertainment venue at the location of the former Clock Tower Resort on East State Street near the entrance to Interstate 90. The proposal is under review by the Illinois Gaming Board, which has the final word on whether to grant a casino license.

Hard Rock agreed to guarantee the city $7 million a year in gaming tax revenue and fees. If the totals were to fall below $7 million, the casino would pay the city to close the gap.

However, the agreement also stipulated that the size of the payments would be subject to renegotiation if a new casino opens with 50 miles of the Rockford location. Negotiations also could be reopened if the number of gaming machines in the city were to increase more than 30% or if there were an increase in gaming tax rates.

Beloit on Thursday announced that the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs had approved the Ho-Chunk Nation's proposal for a resort and entertainment complex on a 73-acre parcel off Interstate 90 near the Beloit Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center.

Ho-Chunk now needs approval from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to proceed.

Mayor Tom McNamara issued a written statement in response to an interview request.

"The City of Rockford has not reviewed the decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs related to the Beloit Casino," McNamara said in the statement. "We are encouraged that the application for Rockford's Hard Rock Casino project is moving through the review process with the Illinois Gaming Board. We have a tremendous application that our community and our aldermen supported unanimously. We are looking forward to the IGB's approval and the opening of the temporary casino."

Aldermen approved the casino proposal to apply for a license from the Illinois Gaming Board on an 11-1 vote.

Because of closures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Hard Rock International executives were not immediately available to comment on what the opening of a casino in Beloit might mean for the Rockford project, spokeswoman Kelly Klopp said.

An Illinois Gaming Board representative wasn't immediately available to provide an update on the status of Hard Rock's application. The gaming board is required by law to review the proposal within a year.

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