The first land-based casino in Indiana’s northwest has finally opened its doors to the public. Many people flocked to the opening event of the Hard Rock Casino in Northern Indiana to see exactly what the 300 million USD casino had to offer. The casino project was succeeded and completed through a joint effort between Hard Rock International and Spectacle Entertainment. The new land-based casino is a valued addition to the region as it also replaces the two Majestic Star Casino boats that used to be anchored at the Buffington Harbor in Gary.
At the opening ceremony of the casino, guitars were smashed instead of cutting a ribbon at the entrance. The new casino is also one of the biggest casinos in Indiana. Visitors can expect to find over 80 table games and more than 1,600 slot machines. Additionally, the venue will be able to take on 1,300 employees and roughly 50% of the staff will be hired from the recently closed Majestic star casinos.
Earlier this year, the mayor of Gary, Jerome Prince spoke in front of the Indiana Gaming Commission and said that the casino plays a big role in the economic development of the city. He was not only referring to the jobs that Hard Rock will provide to the city’s locals. The project has thus far led to half-billion dollars already being invested in the city of Gary. Additionally, Prince said that local companies have also been invested in and it creates a residual economic influence. These costs include 52 million USD used to pay for construction contracts to firms located in Lake County. Of that total, 32 million USD went to businesses in Gary.
Furthermore, Prince added that the investment in the city goes beyond monetary value. The latest business to arrive in the city is working closely with organizations such as the Northwest Indiana chapter of the YMCA. Each of the senior executive members of the team has joined a board of civic organization groups. Prince believes that it has provided these executive members with an opportunity to develop a better understanding of the local community as a whole.
Any Hard Rock casino is known for its iconic guitar as the gaming found at the establishments are equal to importance when it comes to musical memorabilia. The symbol used by the group of casinos is a guitar owned by the patriarch of the Jackson 5, Joe Jackson. The Jackson family also resided in Gary, Indiana as well. Jackson bought the guitar more than fifty years ago and used it when he was playing in a band as a way to earn more money for his growing family.
The Jackson family is known to be a legacy in the music industry and the Jackson 5 was an iconic group. Additionally, several family members went on to have extremely successful music careers, such as the iconic Michael and Janet Jackson.
In April, the director of memorabilia design at Hard Rock International, Giovanni Taliaferro took a flight to Los Angeles to get the instrument from Jackson’s son Tito. At an event where the guitar and the casino’s sign was being showcased, Taliaferro said that when he went to get the guitar everything happened fast and that he wants to give his thanks to the Jackson family for trusting the casino group with showcasing and preserving the artefact in the family’s hometown. The iconic guitar is also reflected in the 37-foot sign that visitors see as they enter the casino.
The first step to get the casino built started with the groundbreaking in January 2020. However, the project was delayed and overshadowed by an investigation into executives at Spectacle Entertainment conducted by the Indiana Gaming Commission. The investigation was linked to claims of illicit campaign contributions that were made back when the founder of Spectacle Entertainment, Rod Ratcliff owned Centaur Gaming.
The investigation is still ongoing and it led to the transfer of Majestic Star assets to Northern Indiana’s Hard Rock being temporarily stopped. Ratcliff’s gaming license was subsequently suspended and he sued the gaming commission based on that ruling. A settlement agreement between the two entities was reached which meant that Ratcliff retired from the gaming industry. A former Centaur and Spectacle executive was federally charged and indicted. Additionally, Spectacle Entertainment was fined by the Indiana Gaming Commission for a total of 530,000 USD in March 2021 for missing a deadline that was imposed by the state that involved the disassociation of the company from Ratcliff.