Times are changing in Indiana after the Hoosier State updated state law in May to allow an inland casino in Gary. After partnering with Spectacle recently, Hard Rock Casino Gary will open in two phases starting Dec. 31, 2020, as the permanent land-based replacement for Spectacle’s two Majestic Star casinos on Lake Michigan.
Then two to three years after casino doors open, construction will begin on the actual hotel for casino guests as well as the onsite parking facility. The project represents a $400 million dollar investment into local infrastructure and will employ twice as many people as Spectacle’s current Majestic Star casinos, according to the Journal-Review in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
The casino will be managed by Hard Rock International, a company that does the same at 12 other casinos across the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic. Additionally, Hard Rock International is bidding to operate a newly authorized casino in Illinois.
Hard Rock International is best known as the operator of a popular chain of rock music themed restaurants throughout the world. The company operates in 74 countries, including 186 Hard Rock Cafes and 29 hotels.
More important, it’s a recognizable brand that Gary officials hope will entice bettors in what is becoming an increasingly competitive market.
It seems Hard Rock’s foray into Gary is mostly attributed to the increasingly competitive casino climate in the Midwest.
John Keeler, vice president and general counsel for the group that owns the Majestic casinos, Spectacle Entertainment, told the Gary Plan Commission (according to nwitimes.com) that Hard Rock International was appealing as a partner because it could help sway customers away from the fast-rising new Illinois casinos such as the proposed mega-casino located in Chicago.
"That partnership was dictated by what happened in Illinois," Keeler said, according to the nwitimes.com story. "We felt if we were going to be able to compete in Gary and put out a first-class product — really attract people to our facility — we needed to partner with the gold standard, with the Rolls Royce if you will, in the casino gaming industry. And that's why we've partnered with Hard Rock, who will manage and brand this casino."
The Hard Rock Casino Gary will encompass approximately 200,000 square feet with 2,764 gaming positions, restaurants, bars, a Hard Rock Cafe, Hard Rock Live and a concert venue. The facilities are promised to be state-of-the-art by developers.
That’s good news for casinos that were badly in need of updates.
Spectacle’s Majestic Star casinos originally opened in the mid-1990s and enjoyed a competitive advantage because back then casinos had to set sail to take in action and the two boats could offer more embarkation times than other nearby casinos.
But that advantage disappeared when dockside gambling came on the scene, and as other casinos built new and better facilities, the Majestic Star casinos fell behind in terms of headcounts and revenue.