Hard Rock Indiana Casinos Facing Yet Another Delay

Posted on February 9, 2021 - Last Updated on March 9, 2021

Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana is hoping for an April grand opening.

It’s been over a year since ground broke on Gary, Indiana’s new “Rocksino.”

However, that April timeline might be an optimistic one thanks to the Spectacle Entertainment situation. Gary residents might have to wait until summer to make their first trip to the new building.

Legal roadblocks for Gary Casino

There are some hurdles to clear before Hard Rock Northern Indiana can open.

The logjam is due to an ongoing legal battle for the Rocksino’s parent company Spectacle Entertainment.

The Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) is trying to force former CEO Rod Ratcliff to offload his stake in the company, amid allegations of Ratcliff’s involvement in a money-funneling scheme.

While the IGC was investigating the situation, it voted to temporarily suspend Ratcliff’s gaming license. The commission recently petitioned to make that change a permanent one.

In a nutshell, Ratcliff isn’t going quietly. He’s currently suing the IGC for trying to force him out of the state’s gaming industry.

The situation has been snowballing for months, and everything is finally coming to a head.

All of the legal tangles could make the Rocksino’s plans for an April opening easier said than done.

Despite all of the uncertainty, Hard Rock COO Jon Lucas says that the company is committed to riding the situation out.

“We continue to work with the Indiana Gaming Commission and our partners at Spectacle Entertainment to bring a resolution to the outstanding issues identified in the Indiana Gaming Commission’s December business meeting.”

Majestic Star Casinos staying open

The entire purpose of Gary’s new Hard Rock is to replace the aging Majestic Star riverboats.

The Majestic Star Casinos are essentially just moving inland. The new Hard Rock will be using the same casino license by transferring it over to the new building.

April might be the new target opening, but the legal problems with Spectacle Entertainment will likely delay things further.

Typically, there’s a bit of a transition when a casino moves buildings like this. The company uses that time to move all of the slot machines and other equipment from one building to the other.

The IGC has already told the Majestic Stars to be ready to stay open until at least June.

That timeline would give the legal battle a chance to sort itself out, but it would obviously push things past that target date of April.

Hard Rock Casinos Indiana

Gary’s Rocksino is one of two under construction in Indiana. Its twin will be breaking ground this spring in Terre Haute.

The casino will serve the greater Chicago area, in addition to residents of northwest Indiana.

There’s already some stiff competition on the Indiana side of the border.

So far, the Majestic Stars have been losing out to Ameristar East Chicago and Horseshoe Hammond. All three casinos are fighting for the same customers in the area.

The move into a brand new Hard Rock building will help Spectacle Entertainment try to elbow its way past the rest of the competition.

The Rocksino’s location next to the interstate will help with that. After all, the easier it is to get to the building, the more that gamblers will be willing to make the trip there.

So even though it will take some time to sort out the legal problems, the new $300 million Hard Rock should be a big hit in the Chicago area once it finally opens.

Whether Ratcliff remains in the picture or not, gamblers will still have a sparkly new casino to try out at some point this year.

Photo by Dreamstime
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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