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Hard Rock’s path to Rockford casino moves forward

Hard Rock officials presented their vision for a Rockford, Illinois, casino development to the Illinois Gaming Board in late January. It was the latest step toward solidifying a proposed permanent site as well as a temporary one.

If approved, the $310 million development is expected to bring between 800 and 1,000 permanent jobs once open and 1,200 temporary construction jobs to build it. It would include restaurants and bars, a 1,600-seat entertainment venue, 1,500 slots, 55 tables and a sports book, along with other amenities.

Jon Lucas, Hard Rock’s chief operating officer, spearheaded most of the virtual presentation to the board with Dan Fischer of 815 Entertainment LLC, one of Hard Rock’s partners on the project.

“The idea of a Hard Rock facility, in partnership with local Rock & Roll Hall of Fame star Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, creates a powerful combination that will forever ingrain the power of music, entertainment and excitement in this project,” Fischer said to the board.

In August 2019, Rockford resident and lead guitarist for the band Cheap Trick, Rick Nielsen, signed autographs at an event to promote the proposed Hard Rock casino. (Courtesy Hard Rock)

Hard Rock wants the facility to be built at the former Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center site, located at 7801 East State St. near I-90. The proposed casino site is about seven miles from downtown Rockford, which is located in the northern part of the state.

A temporary site – to be in use for 18 to 24 months while the development is being built – would be at Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center on North Bell School Road. It would be a $65 million investment itself and could be open as soon as 90 days after an approval by the board.

“We are pleased to get this part of the process underway, and we look forward to working with the state of Illinois and the Illinois Gaming Board on the remaining steps,” Lucas said in a statement to local NBC affiliate WREX-TV. “We are excited to see this amazing project become a reality, for the city of Rockford, the state of Illinois and the hundreds of jobs it will create from the time we break ground through opening.”

Board members originally had until Oct. 28, 2020, to approve the license – however, it granted itself a six-month extension due to complications caused by the pandemic.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker previously green lighted legislation that provided Hard Rock a casino license for Rockford in June 2019.

The gaming board is now scheduled to meet March 10 and April 21. Until the casino is approved, no construction can happen at the proposed permanent location or the temporary one.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at