WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — The Winnebago County Board threw its support Thursday behind a casino on the I-90 corridor.
The board voted 13-5 to support a casino at the I-90 location versus any other location in Rockford. Ultimately, the city of Rockford will make the final decision on a casino location to the Illinois Gaming Board.
For the five board members that did not support the recommendation, for them, it had nothing to do with the location. Their concerns were about the process and they expressed those concerns openly in a lengthy discussion. Board member Dan Fellars wanted additional data before making a decision and was upset with his fellow board members who voted to pass this resolution in spite of his efforts to request additional time for consideration.
“What I am disappointed about is that five board members who represent the city of Rockford just disrespected their city by voting for this resolution,” Fellars said.
On July 16, Hard Rock announced its intent to submit a request for proposal to the city of Rockford, officially expressing interest in bringing a casino to the I-90 corridor. On Tuesday, the Rockford Park District board of commissioners voted to support the Hard Rock casino.
It’s important to note the Winnebago County Board did not vote Thursday to support the proposed Hard Rock casino specifically. The vote is simply to support Rockford’s future casino to be in a specific location: I-90 near the dilapidated-then-destroyed Clock Tower Resort.
On July 30, the Rock River West group, a coalition of community advocates, announced a plan to bring a casino to downtown Rockford, along with a Rockford aquarium.
Winnebago County has a 20 percent share of the new casino’s tax revenue, which is why board members would like Rockford aldermen to consider the board’s recommendation.
“For our end of it, I actually wanted to make sure we were focused on what we believe is the biggest revenue generator,” Jas Bilich, the Chairperson of the Economic and Development Committee, said.
After Thursday’s vote, the board can’t change its mind on which casino location to support.
The city of Beloit is also planning on building a new casino and it is considering a location along I-90 as well.
“I do think that what we have done is create some type of competition between our county and the county to the north of us,” Bilich said.
Proposals for the casino are due on Aug. 30. The city of Rockford’s recommendation is due to the Illinois Gaming Board on Oct. 25.