Company Behind Kentucky Derby Acquires Sioux City’s Hard Rock Casino

Written By Russ Mitchell on February 25, 2022 - Last Updated on July 22, 2022
Churchill Downs buys Hard Rock

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Iowa is changing hands and plans call for Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) to operate the Sioux City venue.

Churchill Downs announced the nearly $2.5 billion acquisition of Hard Rock Sioux City’s parent company — Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) — on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

CDI would like to sell the Sioux City Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to a third party. Churchill Downs would then operate the business through a lease. If the company can’t find a buyer, however, the P2E transaction amount goes up to $2.75 billion, according to Tuesday’s announcement from Louisville, KY.

Hard Rock’s 45,000-square-foot location includes:

  • 639 slot machines
  • 20 table games
  • a 54-room hotel
  • 1,511 parking spaces including 530 covered parking spots
  • Two entertainment venues
  • a 100-piece “music memorabilia collection”
  • and the Hard Rock branded sportsbook in Iowa

The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2022. The Sioux City purchase is only part of the P2E buyout.

Churchill Downs also acquires:

  • Colonial Downs Racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Virginia
  • And, del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo, NY

Could P2E sale impact Cedar Rapids casino plans?

Voters in Linn County approved a public measure to keep casino construction on the table in Cedar Rapids. P2E planned to bring a Cedar Rapids proposal to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC).

For the moment, the Churchill Downs acquisition doesn’t appear to impact P2E’s plans as a developer.

“It appears Peninsula has carved out rights to develop or to continue to seek development in Linn County,” IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko said.

The IRGC would need to approve Iowa’s 20th proposed state casino, however. Past commission memberships have been reluctant to add Cedar Rapids to the list of casino towns.

Riverside Casino & Golf Resort near Iowa City is only 40 miles south of Cedar Rapids. The 2014 commission denied Cedar Rapids efforts in part because they felt the market couldn’t support two casinos that close together. Also, the Isle Casino Hotel of Waterloo is only 55 miles away.

Three states must approve Hard Rock, other acquisitions

What’s next for Hard Rock Casino Sioux City and Churchill Downs?


Churchill Downs executives held a Tuesday conference call with the IRGC to navigate the stock purchase process.

“That’s something that is customary when a company in Iowa is purchased by another company,” Ohorilko said.

The process includes a background check of stakeholders by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. The P2E-Churchill Downs transaction won’t be final until Iowa, Virginia and New York regulators all sign off on the deal.

Photo by Shutterstock Image
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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