Hard Rock Proposes $275M Entertainment Project in Northeast Ohio

Gambling that video lottery terminals at Ohio racetracks will soon be legal, Hard Rock International and Milstein Entertainment announced a joint venture to develop a $275 million gaming and entertainment center at Northfield Park, a northeast Ohio harness-racing track.

Gambling that video lottery terminals at Ohio racetracks will soon be legal, Hard Rock International and Milstein Entertainment L.L.C. announced a joint venture to develop a $275 million gaming and entertainment center at Northfield Park, a northeast Ohio harness-racing track.

The proposal calls for Hard Rock to acquire equity in and to develop and operate the facility, which would include a Hard Rock-branded gaming center, steakhouse, Hard Rock Café, live music, buffet restaurant and conference and meeting space. The new development is expected to generate about 1,000 permanent jobs and more than 1,000 construction jobs.

The track, located on 115 acres between Cleveland and Akron, operates year-round with more than 200 nights of live harness racing and simulcasts of both harness and thoroughbred racing. The Milstein family, which has invested more than $1 billion in various Ohio businesses and commercial real estate over 50 years, bought the track in 1972.

“Being from northeast Ohio, I take great pride in the region and the partners we choose to bring here,” said Brock Milstein, chairman & CEO of Northfield Park and Milstein Entertainment. “Given the impressive history of the Hard Rock brand and its reputation for developing fun and unique experiences around the world, we couldn’t have chosen a better global brand to develop and operate this venue.”

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, said the facility would be “a state-of-the art venue, providing world-class entertainment experiences that are unique to the region to complement the local community and its surroundings.”

The proposed project hinges on the successful resolution of litigation involving the state legislature’s 2011 approval of VLTs at racetracks. An anti-gambling group, the Ohio Roundtable, has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the VLTs, claiming that the VLTs need to be approved by voters — just as the referendum to bring four casinos to the state was in 2009. Those casinos are currently being built in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo. Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, being built by Rock Gaming L.L.C. and Caesars Entertainment, is set to open in mid-May, and Hollywood Casino Toledo, to be owned and operated by Penn National Gaming, Inc. is eyeing a late May opening. Rock Gaming and Caesars are also behind Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati.

Penn National, which is developing Hollywood Casino Columbus, is also betting that VLTs will be allowed to be installed shortly at the state’s racetracks. On March 16, Penn National announced it had reached an agreement with the state of Ohio to relocate two racetracks so that it could develop racetrack and VLT facilities in Dayton and Austintown. The Wyomissing, Penn.,-based gaming company said it expected to spend about $200 million developing those new facilities. The plan calls for Penn National to move Beulah Park from the Columbus suburb of Grove City to Austintown and Raceway Park from Toledo to Dayton, both areas the company described as underserved by this type of entertainment. Penn National said the two new developments would create thousands of construction and permanent jobs in those two areas.