Rockford casino talks continue in Springfield
By Jim Hagerty
Rockford is still among several depressed urban areas ripe for a gambling casino, Illinois lawmakers said Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Discussions in Springfield continue to include expanding the state’s gaming industry, which suffered blows when smoking was banned inside gambling facilities. Rockford’s possible casino has spurred several past discussions of a riverboat and free-standing facility.
However, according to Illinois Sen. Dave Syverson (R), gaming expansion in Rockford may not be as profound as once planned. According to Syverson, a casino in the city would play a smaller role in a long-term increase in area entertainment.
A gambling facility, Syverson said, would likely be in a hotel, making way for other attractions, such as Rick Nielsen’s Rick’s Place, the $25 million hotel, restaurant and live music venue the Cheap Trick guitarist and Ringland Johnson Construction Co. have had on the table for the past three years.
A casino, however, could play a significant role in the addition of shopping outlets and bolster Rockford’s case to bring commuter rail service to the area.
“If you have a big entertainment mecca that’s bringing thousands of people there,” Syverson said, “that makes the numbers even more attractive to expedite a train coming.”
Despite gaming opposition, lawmakers continue to stress the revenue a casino would bring to the city, more tax dollars and an increase in area jobs. Syverson said area gambling would be monitored and regulated properly.
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) said timing would be a factor in whether his administration would support a casino.
“We’re going to be patient and wait for the right solution,” Morrissey said in an earlier report. “If this isn’t the right time or the right bill then we wouldn’t support it.”
Rockford, Danville, Lake County and Chicago are four areas considered for state gambling facilities, Syverson said.
As of Tuesday, support in the capitol shifted from gambling expansion to modifying the casino smoking ban, which, according to lawmakers, has forced gamblers to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri, where they can smoke inside gaming facilities.
As of press time, spokesmen in Springfield said a vote on whether to increase the number of Illinois casinos will likely not be made until after Jan. 1, 2011.
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