JACK hits road, Hard Rock rolls in

This is certain to keep the sign-makers busy: For the third time in its six-year history, Cincinnati’s downtown casino will soon sport a new name. Hard Rock International recently unveiled plans to team with VICI Properties Inc. (VICI) to acquire the JACK Cincinnati Casino for $780 million. Assuming the deal passes regulatory muster, by the end of this year Hard Rock will become the property’s operator, rebranding it Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, while VICI will own the land and real estate assets. (The deal also calls for the partners to take over ownership of Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky.)

“We are confident that Hard Rock and its world-renowned brand will be a great addition to the Queen City and the right choice to take JACK Cincinnati Casino and Turfway Park to the next level of growth,” says JACK Entertainment CEO Matt Cullen.

JACK Cincinnati Casino sits on 22 acres in the Broadway Commons area in downtown Cincinnati’s northeast corner. The complex features 100,000 square feet of gaming space with about 1,800 gaming machines and 100 table games. Additionally, the property contains 33,000 square feet of meeting space, six upscale restaurants, and two bars. Last year, the JACK Cincinnati Casino had $203.5 million in adjusted gross gaming revenue, the largest take for any such facility in the region.

The news release from Hard Rock on the planned sale notes that, “New property improvements will be announced later this year.” Translation: HR will detail how it will bring its music-centric theming to the property, which usually includes tributes to local rock ‘n’ rollers. For example, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, features mementoes from two of the state’s native sons: a signed guitar from Jon Bon Jovi, and an outfit worn by Bruce Springsteen during his “Born in the USA” tour.

Could this also bring the announcement of an on-site hotel? Hard Rock officials declined to comment on plans for the Cincinnati site beyond what was in the release, but it is worth noting that nine of its 11 existing gaming complexes are combined casinos/hotels.

The Cincinnati locale is one of four full-service casinos Ohio voters approved in 2009. When it first opened as Horseshoe Cincinnati in 2013, it was owned and operated by Rock Ohio Caesars, a joint venture between Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment and Rock Gaming, a venture owned by Detroit entrepreneur Dan Gilbert. In 2016, Caesars ceded management of the casino to Rock Gaming, which also changed its name to JACK Entertainment.

The Cincinnati transaction is the second such sale by JACK in recent months. Late last year, the company unveiled plans to sell the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit for $1 billion to Penn National and VICI Properties. In a news release, JACK said Gilbert and his family of companies plan to use proceeds from the sale for investments in Detroit real estate and business development.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Matthew Hall.

Matthew Hall is a Mount Lookout-based freelance writer/editor specializing in covering architectural and design trends. His career includes stints with the Cincinnati Business Courier, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Fatbrain.com (an online bookseller) and Boutique Design magazine. He's also happy to be a later-in-life dad who adopted two children from Guatemala with his wife.