Hard Rock will invest $70 million in hotel expansion in Cincinnati to complement new casino re-brand

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CINCINNATI — Hard Rock International is planning a $70 million hotel investment at its Downtown Cincinnati property, as part of its strategy to transform the 9-year-old casino into more of a regional destination.

“It’s critical to the continued success of this property as we grow the entertainment lineup,” said Jon Lucas, chief operating office for the Florida-based company with 13 casinos, 34 hotels and 238 Cafes and Rock Shops worldwide. “People can regionally come here, enjoy a show, gamble a little bit, eat some dinner. And then they don’t have to drive back home. They can spend the night.”

Revealing much more detail than previously known about Hard Rock’s hotel plans, Lucas said up to 300 rooms are planned for the project, with a spa, fitness center and luxury suites for high rollers. The hotel will be built either on the casino’s front lawn along Eggleston Avenue or north of the casino’s parking garage in what’s now a surface lot.

“I think it’ll be pretty quick,” Lucas said of the project’s timeline. “We just met with our partners about doing that yesterday. And we’ve done the feasibility study already.”

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The hotel investment is a sign of increased competition in the local gambling market, where Churchill Downs is investing $148 million to expand Turfway Park to house up to 1,500 “historical racing machines,” which play like slot machines but comply with Kentucky’s only legal form of betting.

In addition to the hotel, Hard Rock has already invested $40 million to upgrade its dining options and concert facilities. It also built a sports book so the casino is equipped if and when Ohio lawmakers legalize such wagers.

“What we do is we create the real entertainment facility that has a lot of the non-gaming amenities,” Lucas said. “You can’t change that convenience play where somebody’s in the neighborhood and just wants to play for an hour or two. But for the person that wants great food, great beverage, great entertainment or show, we’ll get them coming here. That’s what I think our competition doesn’t have.”



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