By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Rockford Mayor Tom McMamara wrapped up his two-day visit to Springfield Thursday morning by testifying at a House hearing on casino expansion.
McNamara urged lawmakers to include Rockford in bill that would add casino licenses in the state. The mayor’s trip followed his letter to Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot that was published as a full-page ad in the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune. The letter congratulated Lightfoot on her victory in the Chicago mayoral election and noted Rockford and Chicago’s commonalities in their respective pushes for a casino.
“We can’t have sports gaming without having an expansion of land-based casinos,” McNamara said to Rockford media ahead of his trip. “We must have that expansion, otherwise I don’t want to see sports gaming move forward. I think they should be tied together so cities like Rockford, Danville and Chicago can see this expansion. We have long been waiting for this.”
City Legal Director Nick Meyer joined the mayor in the capitol this week to advocate for the city on a number of other issues, including blight reduction and infrastructure spending.
Rockford has been pushing for a casino for decades and revisited the conversation in 2017 when a group of investors that included Ringland-Johnson Construction CEO Brent Johnson announced it planned to buy the Clock Tower, tear it down and build a casino if Rockford was approved for a license. Rockford, however, was passed over.
Rockford leaders say a casino here could mean between $6 million and $8 million in revenue for the city.