ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The stakes for a Rockford casino are higher than ever thanks to the city of Beloit’s preliminary agreement with Ho-Chunk Nation that would set the stage for a new gambling facility to be built in the Wisconsin community. A move that lawmakers say doesn't bode well for the Forest City.
"This really is an issue of who does something first. If the tribes are able to approve a casino and build it in Beloit, nothing would ever be built in the Rockford area because they can't compete."
Senator Dave Syverson says losing out to Beloit would mean a missed chance at adding new jobs and revenue to the economy. The Illinois gaming bill that would have approved a new gambling facility in Rockford failed in November and the House's spring veto session could be the soonest it's discussed again. Supporters of a Forest City casino aren't the only ones worried, anti-gambling organizations think the move would have a negative effect on the Stateline.
"The closer a casino is to a community, the more likely that community will have problems with pathological gamblers. That's the key in all of this. No, I'm not happy about a casino coming to Beloit even if it stops one coming to Rockford because it's only 15 miles away”, says Rev. Dr. Mike Solberg of the ‘No Casino in Rockford’ coalition.
Ho-Chunk's preliminary plans include a convention center and waterpark to accompany the casino, providing more entertainment than a Rockford facility could. If the new gambling center ends up in Beloit, local residents say the distance won't affect them.
Rockford resident Peter Graceffa says, "I would make the extra distance. Strictly for convenience sake, the second closest option would be two to three times further away."
The Beloit City Council and Rock County Board still need to sign off on the deal with Ho-Chunk before plans can move forward. A public hearing on the agreement is scheduled for January 17.