GARY, Ind. — A new $300 million casino has opened in northwestern Indiana, completing a move from along Lake Michigan to a location along heavily traveled Interstate 80/94 in Gary.
The Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana opened to the public Friday evening after an earlier guitar smashing ceremony that included Jackson 5 members and Gary natives Marlon and Tito Jackson. Casino and Gary officials expect a business boost as it replaces the 25-year-old Majestic Star Casino boats that closed in April for the move to the new site.
The main entrance to the casino is located behind a 37-foot-tall guitar marquee modeled on a guitar used by Jackson family members as they formed the Jackson 5 during their years living in Gary. The casino’s displays include much Gary- or Indiana-connected music memorabilia, including John Mellencamp’s hand-written lyrics to “Small Town.”
Casino president Matt Schuffert told The (Northwest Indiana) Times that it’s been important to create “a fun, entertaining environment” for visitors.
The casino’s 1,950-seat Hard Rock Live performance hall is temporarily filled with slot machines but Schuffert hopes to start live concerts there in September or October if COVID-19 precautions continue being eased.
The Hard Rock’s opening was snarled by a state investigation into allegations of financial wrongdoings by the casino developer’s former top executive. The Indiana Gaming Commission imposed a $530,000 fine against Indianapolis-based Spectacle Entertainment over missing a deadline for ex-company CEO Rod Ratcliff to sell his ownership stake in the new casino.
Ratcliff agreed in March to also permanently give up his state casino license after a couple decades as a heavyweight in Indiana’s gambling industry.