In general and due to the specifics in the legislation, the process will move quickly and deliberately with deadlines for action that already are approaching rapidly. Mayor Tom McNamara and the City Council have committed to an open and transparent process that will allow for community input. The City has hired Attorney Bobbie Holzwarth, an experienced partner from HolmstromKennedyPC in Rockford, to serve as Counsel to the City team in this process. Regular communication updates will be part of that process.
On June 5, 2019, the Illinois Senate passed new gaming legislation. The bill provides for a single license for a casino within the City of Rockford. The license will awarded by the Illinois Gaming Board, using an open and competitive bid process. By law, all application(s) for the Rockford license must be filed with the Gaming Board within 120 days of the Bill’s signing.
June 28: Official Signing of Casino Bill
July 1: Local News Conference on Gaming Bill
July 3: City issues Request for Proposals (RFP)
July 25: Last day for interested Proposers to submit written questions
August 1: Response to questions distributed via addendum and on the City’s website
August 16: RFP Responses Due by 2 p.m.
August 19 – September 13: City follow-up questions to Proposers, evaluation
September 16: Evaluation Team Submits Recommendations to City Council
September 23: Public Hearing
No sooner than 7 days after hearing: City Council certifies proposer(s)
No later than 120 days after Public Act 101-0031 enacted: Application(s) filed with Illinois Gaming Board
According to the bill, various taxes and fees generated from the casino will be split:
- 70 percent to the City of Rockford
- 20 percent to Winnebago County
- 5 percent to the City of Loves Park and
- 5 percent to the Village of Machesney Park.
For an application to be considered by the Gaming Board, the City Council must adopt a resolution memorializing the details of the proposal and certifying:
- The applicant has negotiated in good faith.
- The City and the applicant have mutually agreed upon a temporary location.
- The City and the applicant have mutually agreed upon a permanent location.
- The City and the applicant have mutually agreed upon the percentage of revenues that will be shared.
- The City and the applicant have mutually agreed upon zoning, licensing, public health, and other issues within the City’s jurisdiction.
- The City Council has adopted a resolution or ordinance in support of the casino.
The City’s process will be run much like its standard Request for Proposals (RFP) process. On July 1, the City will issue an RFP outlining requirements and specifications for a casino. City staff will review responses and make recommendations to the Council of which proposal(s) they think should be certified. A public hearing will be conducted on the factors to be certified by the City, before the Council votes. The legislation allows the City to certify more than one applicant to the Gaming Board. Before the Gaming Board issues a license for the Rockford casino, an impact study must be completed to determine what location in the City will provide the greater impact to the region, including the creation of jobs and the generation of tax revenue.
With the gaming expansion bill mandating a quick 120-day turnaround for approved cities, including Rockford, to seek, score, negotiate and approve proposals, the City of Rockford hired two additional consulting firms to help navigate staff and council through the process.
Union Gaming Analytics, LLC – Union Gaming will provide market analysis and support services related to the expansion of gaming and the upcoming casino request for proposals. They will also assist the City as it evaluates casino proposals and negotiates with applicants. Union Gaming is made up of well-seasoned industry professionals that are singularly focused on the global gaming industry with a portfolio of diverse work, including engagements related to the expansion of gaming. They have represented hundreds of private and public sector clients around the globe and in the United States, including in Illinois and its neighboring states over the last ten years. Union Gaming is knowledgeable of the unique dynamics present in the region and are ready to share its views on how gaming expansion impacts the marketplace.
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP – Taft will assist the City in analyzing responses to the RFP and negotiating a host community agreement. Taft has substantial experience offering innovative, comprehensive legal services to a wide range of clients involved in all aspects of the casino and route-based gaming industry throughout North America and worldwide. For more than 25 years, Taft attorneys have represented constituents in the gaming industry, including municipalities. Taft has completed similar representations in several other gaming jurisdictions (Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and the City of Chicago).
Media Questions/Interview Requests: Contact Laura Maher, COR Strategic Communications Manager by e-mail: Laura.Maher@rockfordil.gov or (779) 348-7331.