The Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary announced on Thursday that, despite the "overwhelming" success of its property since opening 19 months ago, it is putting a pause on its plans to construct an adjacent hotel.
Jon Lucas, chief operating officer at Hard Rock International, told the Indiana Gaming Commission that "unfortunately, with the economic uncertainty right now, we've paused that."
Lucas reiterated to the state gaming authority that Hard Rock remains interested in bringing a multistory hotel to its Steel City destination and is acquiring nearby parcels of land to replace the parking that someday will be lost to a hotel. However, Lucas said tight capital markets and the high cost of construction make it impossible to build a Hard Rock Hotel at this time.
Similar financing issues and soaring materials costs have led to similar delays or redesigns at other large Region projects, including the Wind Creek Chicago Southland casino and hotel under construction six miles west of the Indiana-Illinois border in East Hazel Crest.
As reported by The Times of Northwest Indiana, Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana President Matt Schuffert also explained to the gaming commission that the $300 million Gary casino has seen $7.2 million in additional capital improvements since opening its doors on May 14, 2021.
That includes converting part of the Fresh Harvest buffet into 1,200 square feet of additional gaming space featuring 65 slot machines, thus giving Hard Rock more slot machines (1,719) than any other commercial casino in the Hoosier State.
According to the above-mentioned media, Schuffert said the casino also has made sound and lighting improvements, added a large video wall in the 2,700-person capacity Hard Rock Live performance space, and constructed another cashier cage in its baccarat gaming area.
Hard Rock has been the top-earning casino in Indiana for 14 consecutive months, ranking ahead of Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, as well as outperforming the Majestic Star Casinos on Lake Michigan that Hard Rock replaced with a land-based facility adjacent to Interstate 80-94 at Burr Street.
Schuffert said comparing the past 12 months at Hard Rock with the last pre-pandemic year at Majestic Star shows Hard Rock generated $270 million in additional revenue and paid a total of $119 million in gaming taxes to the state, a 305% increase.
Records show Hard Rock also employs 1,478 team members, of whom 29% live in Gary and 85% reside in Indiana. In addition, more than 7 in 10 team members who transferred to Hard Rock from Majestic Star remain on the job, and earn, in most cases, at least $18 per hour.
"I'm very proud of this team and proud of being Indiana's leading casino," Schuffert concluded.