By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Hard Rock Casino Rockford has received state approval to begin the first steps of construction on its future casino resort near the corner of East State Street and Interstate 90.
The Illinois Gaming Board gave approval for Hard Rock to start moving dirt and lay the foundation for the resort. The city of Rockford has also issued a building permit to Hard Rock for site grading and other preliminary work. The approval was first reported by the Register Star and confirmed by the Rock River Current.
The city’s building permit calls for “mass grading for (the) future casino.” The project also involves a parking lot base course, storm sewers and other preliminary work.
“A building package will be coming at a later date for (a) foundation permit,” the permit reads.
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The work is slated to start Sept. 15 and last through the end of the year, according to the city permit.
“The Illinois Gaming Board has given us approval to commence site work. The city of Rockford issued a permit that aligns with that approval only,” a Hard Rock spokesperson said in an email to the Rock River Current. “We continue to work with the Gaming Board on the remainder of the process to seek complete approval that will allow us to construct our permanent facility.”
Hard Rock’s full resort will total more than 180,000 square feet, including multiple dining options and a Hard Rock Live entertainment venue with 1,600 to 1,800 seats. There is also a planned 250-room hotel on site. That hotel was initially planned for later phases of construction, but Hard Rock is considering expediting that project in the initial phase.
Construction approval comes about 10 months after Hard Rock opened its interim casino at 610 N. Bell School Road inside the former Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center on Nov. 10.
Rockford Casino has brought in more than $38.9 million through its first nine months of operation, according to figures from November through July from the Illinois Gaming Board. The August revenue has not yet been released. The casino has generated nearly $2.3 million in local government tax revenue.
Under state gaming regulations, Hard Rock can operate the temporary casino for up to two years before opening the permanent facility. The construction schedule Hard Rock presented to the state would fit that timeline, Hard Rock officials previously said.
No official groundbreaking ceremony for the new casino has been set. We’ll update this story as we learn more.