ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) — The next question in the journey to build a casino in Rockford is determining where to put it. The Rock River West Casino Group is advocating for a downtown location.
“Over many years we have bypassed the downtown area,” says group member Stacy Bernardi. “This will give us the opportunity to build an entertainment district with a casino and a hotel.”
Their goal is to make Rockford and the casino a destination location. Bernardi says between the shopping, restaurants, museums and infrastructure already downtown, it makes sense to build an urban casino. She believes it will draw more people downtown to stay at hotels.
State Senator Dave Syverson pushed for a casino, but says building one downtown is not feasible.
“If it were downtown, then for McHenry County it’s much quicker to go to Elgin, for DeKalb County, it’s quicker to go to Aurora,” he says. Those locations have ‘island’ casinos, which are accessible
off of interstates.
Syverson also believes people would eat at the casino, instead of other downtown locations, which could harm other businesses. Along with downtown concerns, he says it’s still a race with Beloit.
“If Beloit is going to get a casino right on I-90, and if we don’t have one on I-90 it means for everyone that’s traveling on I-90 it will be much quicker for them to go to Beloit.”
Other groups teamed up with the Rock River West Casino group to advocate for entertainment destinations downtown. One of those groups is the Rockford Aquarium.
Board member Terry Reid says teaming with the casino group could help get the ball rolling for them as well. “It gives us this opportunity to be in a beautiful location and an ideal venue as far as being part of the gateway to Rockford.”
He also says an Aquarium would bring in new groups of tourists to the area, and would go well with any entertainment district.
The urban casino is proposed to be built in the waterpower district.