On Friday, Hard Rock International will celebrate the official grand opening of its Cincinnati casino. And the gaming and entertainment company that has made its name celebrating hitmakers is bringing one in – just not from the music industry – for the festivities.
Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hit king, will return to his native Cincinnati on Friday morning and place the first table game bet at the rebranded downtown venue. He’ll also autograph a guitar that will be part of the casino’s memorabilia collection.
Besides holding the major league record with 4,256 hits – more than 3,300 of which he got while wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform – Rose is also known for being banned from the game 32 years ago after he was found to have bet on the Reds while managing them.
Rather than a ceremonial ribbon cutting, Hard Rock celebrates the grand opening of each of its casino with a guitar smash that includes Hard Rock officials and leaders from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which owns Hard Rock. It’ll also include local officials and celebrities, similar to Hard Rock bringing members of the Jackson family back home to open the $300 million casino in Gary, Ind., in May.
Besides Rose, Hard Rock Cincinnati will hold the first concert Friday night with Earth, Wind & Fire playing in the casino’s event center. Tickets are still available at the casino’s website.
Grand Opening Event Two Years in the Making
The formal grand opening comes two years after the Florida-based gaming company purchased the Ohio casino from JACK Entertainment in a deal with real estate investment trust VICI Properties Inc. Hard Rock was also in line to acquire Turfway Park, a thoroughbred track in nearby Florence, Ky. However, JACK eventually sold that to Churchill Downs Incorporated.
The transition from JACK to Hard Rock has officially taken place gradually over the last few months. In April, the Rock Shop officially opened at the casino, and a Hard Rock Café opened in July. On Monday, Council Oak Steaks & Seafood, an upscale restaurant will officially open.
Hard Rock also has added more than 250 new slot machines as well to the casino. The casino features more than 1,600 slot machines and 84 table games across a 108,800-square-foot gaming floor.
The grand reopening comes at a time when Hard Rock is in the middle of a big expansion. Besides opening Hard Rock Northern Indiana in Gary, the Florida-based company is also working to open a new casino in Rockford, Ill. It’s also applying for the casino license in Terre Haute, Ind., which the Indiana Gaming Commission plans to award next month.
Hard Rock is also set to open a casino in Bristol, Va. It’ll also operate sports betting in Florida thanks to an amended gaming compact reached between state officials and the Seminoles.
Cincinnati a Very Competitive Gaming Market
Ohio has four full-fledged casinos in the state. JACK Entertainment operates the casino in Cleveland, while Penn National Gaming has Hollywood Casinos in both Columbus and Toledo.
Through the first nine months of 2021, the four casinos have combined to generate more than $740 million in revenue. That’s according to data published by the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
Of the four casinos, Hard Rock’s $168.9 million is the lowest revenue figure. However, it also faces more regional competition than any of the other casinos.
There are three racinos in the Cincinnati-Dayton area that have video lottery terminals. The racinos, the Ohio Lottery regulates seven of them statewide, do not offer table games.
In neighboring southwest Indiana, there are three full-fledged casinos less than 50 miles away from Cincinnati. Across the Ohio River in Kentucky, Churchill Downs has opened Newport Racing and Gaming. The $38 million historical horse racing parlor is just minutes from downtown Cincinnati.
Churchill is also in the middle of a $145 million overhaul of Turfway. That includes a larger HHR parlor that will feature up to 1,500 of the gaming machines resembling slots that are legal in Kentucky. Officials with the Louisville-based gaming company expect it to open next summer.
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