Following a guitar smashing ceremony on May 14, the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana will open to the public at 5 p.m., marking the completion of the $300 million gaming facility located adjacent to the Borman Expressway at Burr Street in Gary.
Guests can find 1,637 slot machines, 80 table games, a sports book, five restaurants, including a Hard Rock Cafe, several bars and lounges, a 1,954-capacity Hard Rock Live entertainment venue, and music memorabilia as far as the eye can see inside the 200,000-square-foot building.
Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International said that “We are extremely excited about the future in Indiana. There certainly have been a few speed bumps along the way, but we believe they’re behind us now.”
The grand opening events on May 14 will be part of a week-long celebration of Northwest Indiana’s first land-based casino, Lucas told the Indiana Gaming Commission no Tuesday, including an invite-only friends and family event on May 11 and a VIP opening on May 13.
He didn’t say when the Majestic Star Casinos in Gary would shut down permanently. A state law signed in 2019 requires the Majestic Star to close when the Hard Rock opens, in part because the law mandates that all Majestic Star employees be given jobs at the new casino.
According to Lucas, those workers will have long days and nights as they continue to operate the Majestic Star while training and preparing for their jobs at Hard Rock. Lucas, on the other hand, is confident that they would succeed, just as Hard Rock team members did at the company’s new Ottawa, Canada casino.
In partnership with Spectacle Entertainment, Hard Rock International, a company operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is the developer and part owner of the new Gary casino.
Spectacle vice chairman, Greg Gibson said that he’s “very optimistic about the future and moving forward in partnership” with Hard Rock. Gibson is also developing a Rocksino casino in Terre Haute, which will use a state gaming license that was previously given to Gary.
Gibson said that “Projects like these don’t come along often. And we’re ready to show how Indiana investors and an international corporate brand can collaborate to bring these fantastic facilities to the state of Indiana.”
Gary Mayor Jerome Prince and state Senator Eddie Melton, D-Gary, both expressed excited for Gary to once again be the center of the Region’s gaming universe, as it was 25 years ago when two riverboat casinos at Gary’s Buffington Harbor became the first in Northwest Indiana to sail Lake Michigan.
Melton said that “I do believe, along with my colleagues, this project will not only be a positive attribute for my community but a game-changer. It’s always been my hope that we continue to build on this project and not only grow the development of the footprint of Hard Rock Casino, but also look at the untapped resources within the Buffington Harbor area where Majestic Star Casino currently sits and utilizing that as more of a logistics, parks, or light manufacturing/industrial to grow the economic development in the city of Gary.”
Only a few weeks ago, it seemed that the new Gary casino would sit empty for months as former Spectacle CEO Rod Ratcliff attempted to keep his casino company. Despite the fact that the Indiana Gaming Commission ordered Ratcliff to divest his Spectacle shares after an inquiry into campaign finance violations and other alleged misdoings, the commission said that Ratcliff was unsuitable to hold a gaming license.
The Gaming Commission lifted its hold on the Hard Rock Casino on March 2 after reaching an agreement with Ratcliff to forgo any further disciplinary measures against him in exchange for Ratcliff agreeing to permanently exit Indiana’s gaming industry.
The Gaming Commission, however, fined Spectacle Entertainment $530,000 for the 53 days that elapsed between the commission’s divestment order and Ratcliff’s sale of his shares, mainly to Gibson.
Gibson added that “We have certainly had our ups and downs. Things seem to jump between crisis and celebration. Today is a time for celebration.”