Gaming Board OKs plans to move Rock Island casino inland - Thursday 26th of July 2007

Illinois gambling regulators signed off on plans Monday to move the Casino Rock Island to a new $150 million complex with a hotel, conference facilities and a third more gaming tables.

The long-planned move from a riverboat in downtown Rock Island to an inland site near Interstate 280 and Illinois 92 was unanimously approved by the Illinois Gaming Board during a special meeting in Chicago.

Rock Islands casino would be just the second to move away from a river under a 2005 amendment to the states Riverboat Gambling Act, said Gaming Board spokesman Gene OShea.

The Casino Queen in East St. Louis is scheduled to move next month to a new site about 700 feet from the Mississippi River.

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The new Rock Island casino is expected to open within 18 months at its new inland site about 3Ĺ miles from the river, said Bill Renk, the casinos vice president of sales and marketing.

Renk said the new facility will include 43,000 square feet of gaming space, up from 14,000 square feet in the existing riverboat, which opened 15 years ago and is the smallest of the states nine casinos.

Gaming tables would expand from about 900 to the state limit of 1,200.

"Well have a state-of-the art casino thats more modern and contemporary, with more room for more comfort. That just plays into the total guest experience," Renk said.

The new casino also would include a five-story, 200-room hotel, 600-seat conference facility and four restaurants, Renk said. The current riverboat has no lodging or meeting facilities and just one buffet-style eatery.

Plans for the new casino complex have been in the works for seven years, but were held up as the Legislature debated new rules to allow off-river sites and the casinos owners reworked designs for the new facility, Renk said.

The new casino, which will be privately financed, is expected to double both the 375 employees and nearly $40 million in annual revenue at the existing riverboat, Renk said.

Renk said the new facility will boost the Rock Island casinos share of a gaming market that also includes two dockside riverboats on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River.

"But we think this also will help make the area more of an entertainment destination," Renk said. "This can help the Quad Cities as a whole and not just this company or this casino."

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