Hard Rock Casino Rockford not planning to offer live poker

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Hard Rock Northern Indiana set to open in May

Despite the worldwide popularity of the game, poker is not going to be offered at the Hard Rock Casino Rockford.

According to professor Anthony Lucas of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the game doesn’t make as much money as slot machines or other table games.

Lucas said, casinos in Las Vegas have downsized and even eliminated poker rooms that managers increasingly view as a gaming amenity, according to Sky Statement.

“A casino floor is a war for space,” Lucas said. “There is a finite amount of it and there is an ongoing turf war. Everyone is jockeying for more space. And they do it by saying, ‘This is the profit per square foot I can produce.’ You start weighing all these possible uses of space against one another and the poker room is one of those things that doesn’t do so well in the conversation.”

Hard Rock International, in partnership with a group of investors under the banner of Delaware-registered Rockford Casino Development LLC., has been certified by the Rockford City Council to move forward in the process for casino license approval

The entertainment giant plans to apply for the single available Rockford license from the Illinois Gaming Board before a late October deadline.

Development tops the $300 million mark

If the application is approved, Hard Rock plans a $310 million development that will include a 65,000-square-foot casino, a Hard Rock Café, and a 1,600-seat Hard Rock Live venue at the location of the former Clock Tower Resort on East State Street. Plans include 1,500 slot machines and 55 table games including standard games like blackjack, roulette and craps.

Most casino games of chance pit the player against the house, with the house always having at least some advantage. Poker differs in this regard as it is a competition of skill and luck that pits players against one another and not against the casino.

The casino makes money in poker by taking a “rake,” which is a fee charged to players on the wagers they make against one another.

In a Luca’s 2014 paper published in the UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal, he concluded that “poker players seemed to lack interest in slots and table games.” And he argued that although poker has the ability to draw players into the casino, they don’t seem to generate much revenue for other areas of the casino.

A typical Las Vegas casino poker room with 20 tables generates approximately $3 million a year in operating profits, Lucas said. Replacing those poker tables with 200 slot machines would see the operating profit generated at nearly $15 million a year.

“I love the game and I wish they had a poker room because it’s fun,” Lucas said. “But a lot of places aren’t going with poker.”

Under the agreement of the casino proposal, Hard Rock agrees to complete an $8.8 million transformation of Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center into a 21,000-square-foot temporary casino. It is expected this is to be completed within 90 days of winning a license from the Illinois Gaming Board. Hard Rock would pay the city a minimum of $1.8 million from the first year of operations at the temporary location, or 15% of net income. Beyond the first year, Hard Rock would pay the city a minimum of $1 million or 5% of net temporary casino income on an annual basis.

The Rockford City Council voted 11-1 on Hard Rock International’s proposal on October 7 for its casino development, enabling the development be approved to proceed.

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