A riverboat casino is moving closer to floating into Rockford. The city council voted to ask the Illinois legislature to include our city in a proposed gambling bill.
Despite three aldermen's reservations that bringing gambling to Rockford might negatively change our city, the council voted ten to three Tuesday night to lobby to make the city the site of a new casino.
Right now, the Illinois House and Senate are considering their respective versions of a bill that would expand gambling at existing casinos, and dole out new gambling licenses to several cities in the state.
A portion of the revenue from the new casinos would be divided among financially depressed communities in Illinois. Four zip codes in Rockford would qualify to receive those funds.
Many aldermen say casino funds would help the city provide needed services and passing up the opportunity to bring in a casino would damage Rockford economically.
"It can generate some $20 million a year and it's kind of hard to say that you're not going to take advantage of that twenty million dollars and capitalize on it in your community where other people are coming into your community spending money versus your people taking the money outside of Rockford," says Rockford Alderman Victory Bell.
But others, like Alderman Linda McNeely worry bringing in a casino would hurt the city morally.
She says, "We all have read the stories, or seen on TV or perhaps a family member that has become a gamble-aholic, and you will see that multiply."
Alderman McNeely also raised an amendment asking that if a casino does come to Rockford, all proceeds would go to improve the four poorest zip codes in the city. That motion failed, with twelve aldermen saying we should wait to see if we receive a riverboat before worrying where the money would go.
Beloit leaders are also working to bring a casino to their city. Many Rockford aldermen worry that if they succeed and Rockford does not, Illinois will lose millions in revenue to Wisconsin.
The Illinois legislature still has a ways to go before its gambling bill becomes law.