Rockford Casino: A Hard Rock Opening Act celebrates one year in the Forest City

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 5:54 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Thursday marks one year since the Hard Rock rolled into town.

Hard Rock Rockford President Geno Iafrate says he’s very proud of the success the casino is finding in the Screw City, but what he’s more proud of is the effect it’s having on the surrounding community.

“We have approximately 275 team members here, and we’ve paid somewhere close to 14 million dollars in overall payroll. I would imagine the ancillary spend with other local businesses, with suppliers, is pretty dramatic as well,” he told 23 News.

The casino has generated nearly $11 million in gaming taxes according to the Illinois Gaming Board. Iafrate says they’re also working with that gaming board to bring new amenities to the venue in the next year.

“We’re working with the Illinois gaming board to get the appropriate approvals to have live table games here at the opening act. We’re also working through the licensing process to open our sportsbook here at the opening act,” Iafrate said.

For mayor Tom McNamara, he’s overjoyed at the success the casino is bringing to the city, saying it’s exceeding his expectations.

“When we get into that permanent casino, these numbers are gonna skyrocket. I mean this will pale in comparison, I mean that 275 employees is gonna jump to 800 and so the amount they’ll be able to contribute to local nonprofits will increase,” he said.

Those nonprofits include Rockford Promise, The International Women’s Baseball Center, and the Family Peace Center. Hard Rock has contributed over $100,000 to those organizations.

“Before the Hard Rock came to Rockford and before we could as a city invest in Rockford Promise, Rockford Public Schools was sending about 20 to 25 kids each year to NIU, and in just two years, that number is now over 205 kids,” McNamara said.

With construction on what Casino leaders have dubbed “The Big Joint” gaining traction, both McNamara and Iafrate expect numbers to multiply, and surrounding businesses and nonprofits to reap the rewards as well.