Hard Rock Reconsidering Chicago Bid, Also Open to Las Vegas Casino Purchase

Posted on: October 7, 2021, 07:34h. 

Last updated on: October 7, 2021, 10:27h.

LAS VEGAS – Could there be a second company interested in bidding for the Chicago casino license? If so, that second company could be Hard Rock International.

Hard Rock Chicago
Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, speaks during a keynote session Wednesday morning at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. (Image: G2E)

Jim Allen, Hard Rock’s chairman and Seminole Gaming’s CEO, told reporters at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Wednesday that the Florida-based gaming company is reevaluating the opportunity.

Hard Rock was one of the companies that responded last year to the city’s request for information solicitation. MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts, two other gaming companies that responded, have said they would not pursue the opportunity.

Allen said that the company was “re-courted” after having been hesitant about the opportunity.

Frankly, we need to make a decision prior to the end of this month,” he said. “We’re evaluating that now.”

The perceived favorite for the Chicago license has been Rush Street Gaming, a Chicago-based company that owns and operates Rivers casinos.

However, in hopes of attracting more bidders, the city extended the deadline to submit a bid by more than two months. The new date is Oct. 29. Officials also recently revised a rule to now allow potential applicants “believed by the city to have the ability to submit or be part of a group” vying for the license to discuss the project with senior city officials.

The city wants an operator to develop a casino resort with a 500-room hotel, ideally in or near downtown.

Millions Invested Around Chicago

Hard Rock has been in an aggressive expansion mode in recent years, with a focus on the Midwest.

May saw the opening of Hard Rock Northern Indiana, a $300 million casino in Gary. Three months later, the Indiana Gaming Commission approved Hard Rock’s takeover as the majority owner of the casino, assuming control of the venture from Spectacle Entertainment.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Gaming Board gave preliminary approval for Hard Rock Rockford, a $310 million casino that will feature 2,000 gaming seats. While that awaits further approval, work has started on a temporary venue, dubbed Rockford Casino, a Hard Rock opening act. That will feature 600 slot machines.

Gary is about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, and Rockford is 90 miles west. Those wouldn’t necessarily keep Hard Rock from bidding on Chicago, Allen said.

Hard Rock has also applied for the casino license in Terre Haute, Ind., where they have support from key local officials. If the Indiana Gaming Commission approves Hard Rock for the license – there are three other competitors – the company intends to spend about $200 million on a facility that would house 850 slot machines and 35 table games.

Hard Rock Eyes Vegas, Too

Allen also said that Las Vegas could be a possibility for the company.

When the Seminole Tribe of Florida acquired Hard Rock in 2007, the purchase did not include the then-Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. The off-Strip casino in Vegas closed in 2020. It’s now the Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotel Las Vegas.

The company now has the right to operate a Hard Rock casino in the market. Allen said in response to a question from Howard Stutz from The Nevada Independent that it will be selective in how it moves forward out here. He said that the Planet Hollywood resort, a Caesars Entertainment property that has been rumored to be sold, is not being considered.

“If the right opportunity comes up for us,  yes, we recognize that Las Vegas is the capital of gaming in the United States,” he added.