Hard Rock International is the new owner of Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky after the track was included in a three-way deal that saw a Cincinnati casino change ownership as well.
In a $780 million deal announced April 5, Hard Rock International and VICI Properties acquired JACK Cincinnati Casino from Dan Gilbert’s JACK Entertainment. Through the joint purchase, Hard Rock will acquire the operating assets of the casino, re-branding it Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, while VICI will own the land and real estate assets.
According to a release from JACK Entertainment, Hard Rock Entertainment will purchase both the Turfway land and operations.
A spokeswoman for Hard Rock Entertainment declined comment April 8 on the purchase of Turfway beyond reference to the company’s press release which focused on plans for the casino.
Turfway is the only track in Kentucky not offering historical racing games despite being approved to operate such games by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. In recent months the KHRC has increased pressure on the former Turfway owner to add historical gaming. Some commission members have suggested JACK Entertainment was dragging its feet because it had no real desire to add the games, an approach that would help ensure more interest in its Cincinnati casino.
The new deal will see Hard Rock have interest in both the casino and racetrack, which is about a 15-minute drive from the casino. In the Hard Rock press release announcing the deal, the focus was on plans for the casino.
“Hard Rock has been the number one operator in Ohio since opening in the greater Cleveland market in 2013,” said Hard Rock chairman and CEO Jim Allen in the release. “And now, we look forward to introducing our unique brand of casino entertainment to Cincinnati. On behalf of the 40,000 Hard Rock team members worldwide, I am pleased to welcome the more than 1,000 JACK Cincinnati employees into the Hard Rock family.”
The casino is situated on 22 acres in the Broadway Commons area of downtown Cincinnati. The property features 100,000 square feet of gaming space with approximately 1,800 gaming machines and 100 table games. Hard Rock said new casino property improvements will be announced later this year.
JACK Entertainment officials said Hard Rock is well-positioned to develop the casino and track. The deal, which will require regulatory approval, is expected to be finalized in late 2019.
“We viewed the gaming industry as a catalyst for economic development in our local communities. 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,” said Matt Cullen, CEO of JACK Entertainment, in a release. “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. We chose to sell to Hard Rock, in large part, due to its great culture and quality of its leadership. They are an outstanding operator that JACK Cincinnati Casino and Turfway Park team members will enjoy working with as they continue to deliver excellent service to our guests.”