Ohio's Casino Control Commission voted yesterday to approve plans by a New-York based investment trust to purchase Cincinnati's JACK Casino downtown.
Regulators approved a three-year license for a subsidiary of VICI Properties, allowing the company to buy the property for $558 million. Hard Rock International will operate the casino and is paying $187 million for its assets pending approval from the commission for its own license, which could come at the next Casino Control Commission meeting.
Hard Rock will reportedly lease the 133,000 square foot casino and event space from VICI for $43 million a year and the casino will be rebranded as Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati. That lease will be for 35 years, with an initial 15-year lease and four five-year extensions.
“Hard Rock has been the number one operator in Ohio since opening in the greater Cleveland market in 2013,” Jim Allen, chairman and CEO of Hard Rock International, said in a statement in April when the deal was first announced. “And now, we look forward to introducing our unique brand of casino entertainment to Cincinnati.”
VICI is a two-year-old investment trust mostly operating in the gaming industry. VICI President John Payne was previously with Caesars and helped create the Cincinnati casino.
Cincinnati's casino is one of four in the state voters authorized in 2009. The others are in Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. The Cincinnati gaming facility opened in 2013 as Horseshoe Casino but became JACK Casino when owners Rock Ohio Caesars rebranded as JACK Entertainment in 2016. JACK, based in Detroit, will continue to operate its other Ohio casino in Cleveland.
JACK is also expected to sell Turfway Park in Florence as part of the deal. Executives say they don't anticipate changes to employment at either site.
"After 10 years, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment developing JACK Cincinnati Casino from the ground up, and establishing a strong customer-focused culture, we have successfully positioned JACK Cincinnati Casino for further future success," a statement from JACK Entertainment CEO Matt Cullen reads. "We are confident that Hard Rock and its world-renowned brand will be a great addition to the Queen City and the right choice to take JACK Cincinnati Casino and Turfway Park to the next level of growth."
Cullen also helped oversee the development of the Cincinnati casino and was deeply involved in the 2009 push to legalize gambling in Ohio.
JACK Casino opened with roughly 1,700 employees and currently employs about 1,000 people. The site averaged about $17 million a month in gaming revenue last year.