Hard Rock unveils plans for Northfield slots-only casino

NORTHFIELD, Ohio - 2,500 slot machines surrounded by a Hard Rock experience, that's probably the easiest way to sum up the entertainment giant's plans for a new gaming facility at Northfield Park.

"We could have just done the slots in the box as the saying goes, but that's not what the brand Hard Rock's about," said Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen.

"What we're trying to create is a destination that is not just about VLTs," he said referring to video lottery terminals as the slots are known. "We're trying to create a true entertainment destination."

The floor plan for the facility will feature in addition to the slots, a Hard Rock Café along with other restaurants, a center bar, a Hard Rock "Live" performing area featuring live music, a comedy club among other amenities.

"If you look at our success it really is trying to create a destination and a true entertainment environment," he said.

When you think of Hard Rock, you may think of young and hip terms not often immediately associated with slots players. Even though this will be a slots only facility Allen said it will be one that will appeal to everyone.

"Certainly when you talk about the slot customer, (they're) a little different from the table game customer, but on a national basis it's over 73 percent of the total gaming revenue wagered in the United States and we obviously have been very successful in that particular category," Allen said.

For Northfield CEO Brock Milstein, whose late father acquired the track four decades ago, today's partnership announcement was a long time coming.

"To be a local guy and to be able to bring a global brand like the Hard Rock to Cleveland is just incredible," said Milstein.

Northfield is one of the state's seven horse racing tracks that were granted the option of adding slots as part of an agreement reached last year between the state and its four new full blown casinos.

"There's just too much competition out there," he said. "The VLT and slot-fueled purses are pulling horsemen from Ohio for many years and this will allow us to bring the quality horseman, horses back to Ohio."

Unlike other racinos across the country, the Hard Rock facility will not overlook the track, but be built in the parking lot adjacent to the grandstand.

"They will probably connected through landscaping, paths and those types of things, but in our first phase we probably will not connect the two buildings," said Milstein.

Once ground is broken the project should take about a year to complete but there is no timetable for work to start because of a lawsuit challenging the state's authority to expand gambling to the tracks.

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