Hard Rock International — known for its popular Hard Rock Café — is pursuing a casino and hotel in the city of Rensselaer.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino would feature table games, slot machines, a hotel and restaurants on 24 acres at de Laet’s Landing, Hard Rock chairman and CEO Jim Allen announced Thursday.
“The model of just building a casino is a model of the past,” Allen said to a crowd of more than 100 people at Rensselaer City Hall. “We’re unique. We’re creating music and a musical experience. That’s what sets us apart from the competition.”
Allen declined to provide details of the proposed project until after the casino application is submitted to the state Gaming Commission, the deadline for which is June 30.
During his presentation, Allen touted Hard Rock’s history and brand. He is confident the Hard Rock name alone would ensure the casino’s success in Rensselaer.
“Our brand is what separates us from a lot of the other applicants,” he said. “We certainly believe that the Hard Rock brand will increase foot traffic. We know for a fact that the brand will create additional interest on a worldwide basis.”
Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer said he was informed of Hard Rock’s partnership only on Wednesday, but he believes the project is the strongest proposal in the Capital Region.
“The name is going to draw people to this casino,” he said. “The benefits that can spring off of this will be enormous. We will spread the wealth out, and that is key.”
Global Gaming Solutions, the commercial arm of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, would be a partner in the project along with Flaum Management of Rochester and the Capital District Off-Track Betting Corp. Capital OTB’s involvement with the casino project is expected to help benefit 19 counties in upstate New York, though projected revenue figures have not been disclosed.
“I think because we are in a competitive environment we don’t want to put the numbers out there so the competitors can sift through them,” said John Signor, president of Capital OTB. “But this will help 19 counties and two cities.”
Allen said Hard Rock plans to discuss potential relationships with local businesses and entertainment venues if the project is awarded a casino license from the state in the fall. It is unclear if the project would include its own entertainment venue. Allen said Hard Rock would have entertainment “in the facility” but does not anticipate taking business away from existing local venues.
“We look forward to working with the local community,” he said. “We are 100 percent receptive to work together with local businesses. We’re happy to do that.”
David Flaum of Flaum Management is working with Hard Rock to pitch the site for a casino after his plans for a gaming facility near Thruway Exit 23 in Albany fell through. Four other sites in the region — Amsterdam, Cobleskill, East Greenbush and Schenectady — are being pitched for a casino. Four licenses will be awarded among the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.
“We have the site, and we have the need,” Dwyer said. “We have one of the highest unemployment rates around. We need these jobs. The city cannot expand; I need to utilize what we have. So this project is perfect.”
Hard Rock runs 180 venues in 56 countries, including 140 cafés, 20 hotels and nine casinos. Allen said his goal is to reach 200 locations by the end of the year.
The Hard Rock Café restaurant chain, started in 1971, is known for displaying music memorabilia such as Eric Clapton’s red Fender Lead II guitar.
Allen said after June 30, details of Hard Rock’s proposal will be released to the public.
“Here’s what I promise: As soon as we submit, the next time we will have a community event, I will be happy to take you through all of the details,” he said after the announcement. “We want to work with the mayor and the City Council to make sure people are informed.”