Push for Casino About More Than Gambling

During his time in office, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey has commented often that it is up to us, as a community, to “save ourselves.”  We can’t wait for the state of Illinois or the federal government to bail us out of the challenges we face. We can’t wring our hands over our circumstances or simply wait on the sidelines until something comes along to save us. 

No, instead, we need to get in the game, fight for our fair share, and develop innovative solutions to the challenges we face as a community. That seemed to be the underlying theme last Thursday, September 8, as Morrissey and Regional Director of Government Affairs Mike Dunn briefed Next Rockford members on the effort to land a casino in Rockford. 

From the legacy of the late State Rep. Zeke Giorgi’s push for gambling in Illinois to the current legislation awaiting action by Gov. Quinn, gambling has a long and rocky history in the state.   Dunn provided some key history about the 30-year timeframe behind casino gambling in Illinois as well as the status of the legislation. He also correctly pointed out what the casino would not mean for Rockford.  “None of us believe that this is an end-all be-all solution,” said Dunn. “This is an economic development tool to add to the tool set.”  

Mayor Morrissey talked about the lobbying effort behind the push for the casino and provided his perspective on the merits of the bill. “This is a bill that gives the most control to our community,” he said. “If we want other amenities to be integrated into a casino, then we have control over the facility.” 

Further, dozens of organizations and thousands of Rockford-area residents are solidly behind the push for a casino, more information about which can be found at www.rockfordcasinocoalition.com  “We have been told by many in Springfield that we have the strongest community campaign,” said Morrissey. “This campaign creates leverage for us and makes it harder to be ignored as a community.”

Listening to Dunn and Morrissey and seeing the community effort to get a casino for Rockford, it’s clear that this effort is about more than gambling.  This is about Rockford finally getting off the bench and getting in the game. About us calling for the ball, instead of being content to let someone else take the shot. And, naysayers be damned, we’ve been taking some clutch shots lately.

Continued success of the City Market. Infrastructure improvements and new buildings for Rock Valley College and Rockford College. A regional effort to attract Embry-Riddle. New leadership in the school district and the purchase of the AMCORE building. Encouraging employment numbers. New air service to Denver at RFD.  The Nicholas Conservatory. A sponsorship deal for the newly-named BMO Harris Bank Center. The coming return of a major youth soccer tournament to Rockford. Work beginning on the Whitman Street interchange.

Slowly, we’re seeing our region claw its way back from the brink at which we found ourselves standing during the Great Recession. We still have daunting challenges, to be sure. However, community success is a marathon best begun by putting on your shoes and taking the first steps. There is momentum in the Rockford region. Positive news.  Progress. A slight sense that our region is beginning to move forward.  Piece by piece. Bit by bit.

Let’s keep it moving.