VICI, Hard Rock to Acquire Ohio Casino for $745M

The companies will purchase the real estate and operating assets of the JACK Cincinnati Casino from JACK Entertainment in separate all-cash transactions.
JACK Cincinnati Casino. Image courtesy of JACK Entertainment

VICI Properties will soon add the JACK Cincinnati Casino to its portfolio. The REIT and a subsidiary of Hard Rock International have signed commitments to acquire the downtown Cincinnati gaming property from Jack Entertainment for a total of $745 million in cash.

VICI will take ownership of JACK Cincinnati’s land and real estate assets in their entirety with the $558 million purchase of 100 percent of the membership interests of the subsidiary that owns the property. Hard Rock will purchase the property’s operating assets for $187 million. In tandem with the completion of the transactions, VICI will sign Hard Rock to a triple-net lease agreement, guaranteed by Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment, with an initial 15-year term and the option for four five-year renewals. Hard Rock has been the leading operator in the Buckeye State since making its 2013 debut in Cleveland.

“As we look across the landscape, we believe acquisition opportunities are plentiful and would note that finding the right asset also entails finding the right operating partner,” Danny Valoy, vice president of finance at VICI, told Commercial Property Executive. “(With Hard Rock), we now have partnerships with three best-in-class operators, which we believe further strengthens our ability to compete for additional assets going forward.”

Pending both state and federal regulatory approval, the transaction will likely close in late 2019. Goldman Sachs & Co. served as financial advisor, while Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel acted as legal advisor, both on behalf of VICI.

JACK Cincinnati first opened its doors in 2013 as Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, developed by Rock Gaming, the previous incarnation of JACK Entertainment, for $450 million. The 450,000-square-foot gaming destination was reintroduced to the market as JACK Cincinnati in 2016. In addition to 100,000 square feet of gaming space, the casino features 33,000 square feet of meeting accommodations, six restaurants, two bars and an attached 2,500-space parking facility.

“This transaction expands our geographic footprint into one of the fastest growing regional markets,” John Payne, president & chief operating officer of VICI, said in a prepared statement. JACK Cincinnati is one of only four legally permitted full-scale casinos in the State of Ohio.

The buying game

VICI, which completed its spin-off from Caesars Entertainment Operating Co. in 2017, has been busy bolstering its national portfolio over the last several months. In January, VICI closed the $261 million acquisition of the Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City, La. VICI’s partner on the deal was Penn National Gaming, which acquired Margaritaville’s operating assets in a separate transaction before entering a lease agreement with the REIT.

In December 2018, VICI completed acquisition and leaseback transactions valued at $241.5 million with Caesars Entertainment for Harrah’s Philadelphia. VICI also entered into an agreement in November 2018 to add the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit to its holdings for $700 million, with Penn National agreeing to buy the operating assets separately.

The JACK Cincinnati deal brings VICI’s total planned and completed acquisition transactions to nearly $2 billion over a period of less than six months. The REIT, however, doesn’t plan to allow the latest addition to the tally to slow its purchasing activities.

“The (JACK Cincinnati) acquisition has no bearing on our ability to complete or announce additional acquisitions this year given our strong balance sheet, relatively low leverage and our ability to utilize efficient measures to access capital,” Valoy told CPE. “Since formation, we have raised over $3 billion in equity capital to fortify our balance sheet and fund accretive acquisitions.”