Gaming and Leisure Properties Acquires Hard Rock Rockford Land

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Pennsylvania-based casino real estate investor Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. (GLPI) has announced its acquisition of the land underlying the under-construction Hard Rock Casino in Rockford, Illinois (rendering pictured).

Interestingly, the venue is not operated solely by Hard Rock Entertainment either, but by local group 815 Entertainment. It is working with the Florida-based casino giant on the project.

The new GLP deal, which is valued at $100 million, further solidifies the Penn Entertainment spin-off’s position in the rapidly expanding casino real estate investment trust (REIT) sector.

GLP’s acquisition of the property does not include the operations of the casino itself, which will be leased back to 815 Entertainment for an initial 99-year lease. This leaseback strategy is a common practice in the casino REIT space, allowing operators to free up capital while retaining control of the casino’s day-to-day operations.

The Hard Rock Casino Rockford is currently under construction for a 2024 launch, with a temporary venue now open. The full venue is expected to cost some $350 million, with GLP now committed to funding up to $150 million of that.

“We believe this is an attractive ground lease transaction for our shareholders, as the strong initial results at 815 Entertainment’s temporary facility demonstrate the strength of the location and the depth of the market,” said GLP Chairman Peter Carlino in a press release.

World Renowned Brand

The New Hard Rock Casino Rockford is expected to fully open in late 2024. It will have 177,000 feet of space, with 60,000 feet for gaming. That will include 50 table games, 1250 slots, and a retail sportsbook.

“The Hard Rock brand is world-renowned, and will support and solidify the new casino’s position as a tourist destination and entertainment venue. Hard Rock and equity investor 815 Entertainment bring its world-class management team to the project,” said Carlino.

The casino will also launch with a Hard Rock Bet online sportsbook app, which was licensed to offer online betting in Illinois last month. Hard Rock Entertainment’s owners, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, recently upgraded and relaunched its sports betting operation under the new Hard Rock Bet name.

The Illinois sports betting market is the second-largest in the U.S. after New York, posting a $665 million handle and $54.67 million in revenues in June.

Growing Casino Market

As well as sports betting growth, Illinois has been witnessing a surge in the number of casinos, with the recent expansion of gaming legislation.

The Hard Rock Casino Rockford is one of six new casinos approved by the state in an effort to generate more revenue and create jobs.

Just this week, Walker’s Bluff Casino in Carterville became the 14th Illinois brick & mortar casino to open doors in the state since 1991. This month also saw the Golden Nugget in Danville celebrate its grand opening.

Elsewhere in the state, Bally’s is set to launch the first Chicago casino at Medinah Temple next month, and Wind Creek’s planned Chicago Southland casino has been delayed again.

These new casinos are expected to bring significant revenue, with the Hard Rock Casino alone projected to create over 1,000 permanent jobs and generate millions in annual gaming tax revenues for the state and local governments.

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