It’s A Go: Hard Rock Approved For Indiana Casino As Sports Betting Launches

Posted on September 4, 2019 - Last Updated on September 19, 2019

The final regulatory hurdle for the relocation and rebranding of the Majestic Star casinos has been cleared. The Indiana Gaming Commission has given its approval Hard Rock Casino.

Construction will begin later this year in Gary, Indiana on a new 225,000 square-foot facility. In addition to the iconic Hard Rock Café, plans include:

  • Hotel
  • Sportsbook
  • Bars and restaurants
  • Live music venue
  • 2,764 gaming positions (the state maximum)

Hard Rock Casino approval ups the ante for the region

While the relocation of the Majestic Star and rebranding as Hard Rock seems like great news for Gary, it’s less well-received by other Indiana casinos.

Spectacle Entertainment, which operates the current and future facilities, expects the casino, entertainment, and restaurants to be open by New Year’s Day 2021. While the hotel isn’t expected to be open until two to three years later, Hard Rock will become new competition in an already crowded market.

Ameristar is in East Chicago, just nine miles away from Gary. The Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City is a mere 28 miles from Gary. Then there are the casinos on the opposite side of the Illinois border.

Competition from the opposite side of the state line may be ramping up while Hard Rock is undergoing construction.

Uncertain but potential competition in Chicago

There are questions about the feasibility of a mega-casino in Chicago. Most of the doubts revolve around the high tax rate such a casino would face.

If the Illinois Legislature addresses that, investors should pounce on the opportunity in Chicago. That’s up in the air right now, but the threat looms.

With that in mind, pressure exists on Spectacle to get Hard Rock up and running fast. The window without having to compete with a mega-casino that Chicagoans can take “the L” to visit could be small.

There is another reason that time is of the essence for Spectacle: It revolves around Hard Rock’s sportsbook.

The advantage is in the books for Hard Rock

Sports betting in Indiana went live on Sunday and several sportsbooks will be launching over the coming weeks. Illinois’ gambling expansion law legalized sports betting, but there is no date for the actual rollout yet.

While that’s likely to happen before the Hard Rock in Gary opens, there is one advantage that Indiana sportsbooks have over Illinois books.

Betting on college football and basketball games played by Northwestern or the University of Illinois remains illegal in the Land of Lincoln. Indiana books, on the other hand, are free to accept wagers on college action.

When the Hard Rock opens, even if it faces competition from a future Chicago casino, it needs to market its college betting options to lure customers. Building on the strong brand awareness the populace has of Hard Rock, it could be a way for Hard Rock to thrive in a crowded market.

There’s no doubt that the Hard Rock is coming to Gary. The Indiana Gaming Commission’s approval has removed that doubt. The question is now what impact it will have in the Chicago and the northwest Indiana region.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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