$400M venture rebranded as Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana instead of Gary
By Erick Johnson
By this time next year, folks in Gary should see something that could help the city hit the jackpot.
Hard Rock International was scheduled to break ground in Gary this week on its $400 million casino and entertainment complex.
One change that many people in Gary might not like is that the facility will be called the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, not the Hard Rock Casino Gary, even though it will be located in the city.
It’s a rebranding that seemed low-key before the Crusader on Tuesday, January 7, saw the new logo, with the designation “Northern Indiana,” at the top of a press release announcing the groundbreaking that was scheduled on Thursday, January 8.
The new brand name is all over the press release, which mentions the new name and the Gary address.
When Hard Rock International, one of the world’s most iconic global brands, first announced the project in July 2019, the complex was called the Hard Rock Casino Gary. News outlets ran stories with the new Hard Rock Casino Gary’s purple and beige logo. Along with hundreds of cities across the globe, Gary was poised to have its name shine with a high-profile brand that’s on restaurants, casinos, hotels, sports and entertainment stadiums.
Now, Gary will have a major Hard Rock Casino without the city’s name. Kay Kearney, creative brand manager for Majestic Star Casino, said the change of name was made “a few weeks back.”
When asked whether a press release was sent out announcing the new change, Kearney did not respond. However late Wednesday at 10 p.m., Kearney sent this statement.
The Crusader discovered an online article in the NW Indiana Times website on December 18 where it said the casino will be branded –not rebranded- as the Hard Rock Northern Indiana. No press release or announcement was made to inform the Crusader of the change.
While landing Hard Rock in Gary is still an achievement, the rebranding is a disturbing move that may send the wrong message to future companies seeking locations in Gary.
The Crusader surveyed Hard Rock International’s website, and found that 12 of its casinos around the world are identified by the name of the city rather than its regional location.
The Crusader also left messages for Mayor Jerome Prince and former Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. Prince’s Press Secretary Michael Gonzalez said the mayor is in legislative meetings all day. Freeman-Wilson did not respond to a text message from the Crusader.
Companies come under suspicion when they make moves that appear to distance them from Gary, a predominately Black city whose image has suffered from negative news stories in the media.
Gary passed new zoning laws, an ordinance, and gave Hard Rock steep tax breaks to build the complex, which will be a re-branded Majestic Star Casino after it moves to the Borman Expressway at Burr Street and 29th Avenue. Majestic Star Casino’s owner, Spectacle Entertainment, will pay the Indiana Gaming Commission $20 million in four installments for moving the casino to a land-based location.
In addition to a Hard Rock casino, it will include a Hard Rock Café, a Hard Rock Live concert venue, restaurants, and bars, on 30 acres.
The Hard Rock Casino will have up to 2,764 gaming positions, according to a news release.
The Majestic Star’s boats currently combine to hold 1,620 slot machines and 63 table games. Horseshoe Hammond, Indiana’s largest casino, located about six miles west of Gary, features 2,173 slots and 150 table games.
The project is expected to be completed in 2022.