Hard Rock Indiana Casinos Face Looming Competition From Chicago

Posted on May 21, 2021

Hard Rock Casinos are going to be permanent fixtures in western Indiana, or that’s the plan, anyway. With the Gary property now open and a potential ground-breaking for the Terra Haute facility forthcoming, there’s a lot of buzz.

They aren’t alone in the market, however. Not only is there plenty of competition from other casino brands and online sportsbooks, but a possible out-of-state competitor looms large.

The latest on Hard Rock Indiana casinos

For Gary residents and visitors, the show has begun. The Hard Rock Casino in Northern Indiana opened just over a week ago. The “Rocksino” boasts everything patrons would expect, including:

  • 80 gaming tables
  • A 2,000-seat live entertainment venue
  • More than 1,600 slot machines

Meanwhile, significant progress on another Hard Rock-branded gaming facility about a 2.5-hour drive due south seems to finally be happening. Hard Rock International and Lucy Luck Gaming have agreed to terms on a management contract for the Terra Haute casino.

That’s a crucial step as the Seminole Tribe, who owns the Hard Rock brand, seeks licensure from the Indiana Gaming Commission. It seems that once Hard Rock is confident in that licensure, it’ll move ahead with the ground-breaking for the facility.

“We are sure hoping for later June,” Greg Gibson, chairman of Lucy Luck Gaming, said of a project start date. “Hard Rock has told the Indiana Gaming Commission they want to get started before the end of June. That said, I hate to say it because we’ve had to back up so much already.”

Gibson projected the construction would take about 14 months to complete.

That means a potential fall 2022 opening. That would put two Hard Rock casinos in western Indiana, certainly giving the brand a strong presence.

Will that presence translate to a strong performance in terms of market share and revenue? Competition may be looming across the border.

Another show happening?

For the casino in Gary, many patrons won’t be Indianans. They’ll actually come across the state line from the greater Chicago area. There are other casinos in northwest Indiana, such as the Ameristar in East Chicago, contending for that interstate traffic.

However, the greatest potential worry is that Illinois residents will stop making the drive across the border altogether.

Scott L. King, who was the mayor of Gary from 1996-2006, voiced the concern.

“I remain concerned for all of northwest Indiana on the casino revenue side with the development of casinos in Chicago,” King stated in a radio interview.

In 2019, authorization for a casino in Chicago proper was part of a gambling expansion law in Illinois. To date, the progress on that remains minimal. The city has yet to decide on a location and an operator.

Currently, the most optimistic appraisal of the situation has such a facility opening sometime in 2025. That doesn’t mean it isn’t inevitable, though. Eventually, there will be a casino in Chicago somewhere.

That does give the Hard Rock in Gary some time to try and build loyalty among Illinoisans in the metro, or simply take advantage of the lack of a gambling facility in their neighborhood while that’s the case. Either way, time is of the essence.

Photo by Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. 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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