It’s Official: Churchill Downs Now Owns Iowa’s Hard Rock Casino

Written By Adam Hensley on September 5, 2022 - Last Updated on September 21, 2022
Churchill Downs officially owns Sioux City Hard Rock Casino per IRGC

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City is close to having a new owner: Churchill Downs.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) approved the company’s $2.75 billion acquisition deal unanimously on Aug. 25. Churchill Downs is the owner of the historic Kentucky Derby site.

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment currently owns the popular Iowa casino.

Churchill Downs vice president of gaming operations Tim Bryant emphasized his commitment to the Hard Rock brand. He stressed his desire to retain the current staff members at the Sioux City location, too.

Bryant told commissioners:

“First and foremost, we’re committed to the team members at Hard Rock Sioux City. We’ve been quite impressed with our visits to that property, it’s very apparent the senior team there had assembled a great team and we’re working forward to continuing what already exists there today.”

Sioux City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino boasts more than 630 slot machines and 19 table games, according to its website. The property has five restaurants and bars and a 54-room hotel.

Agreement with the Missouri River Historic Development continues

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment currently holds an agreement with the Missouri River Historic Development. The development is a nonprofit that has Hard Rock’s Iowa gaming license. Churchill Downs said it would keep the existing agreement.

According to the Missouri River Historic Development’s website, the organization’s grant program has awarded more than 2,000 grants since 1994. Those grants averaged a minimum of $2 million annually.

Under the current agreement, the Missouri River Historic Development takes 4.25% of the Hard Rock Casino’s revenue. That money then goes toward local groups in an effort to boost economic development, tourism, health, and more.

Specific organizations that have benefited from grants are:

  • Sioux City Public Museum
  • American Red Cross
  • Siouxland Food Bank
  • City Hall

The grant program is open to all non-profits, according to the MRHD’s website.

In February, the MRHD will offer Target Grants. In a change from previous years, these grants are increasing to $25,000, according to the program’s website.

Bryant explained:

“We are committed to sustaining the partnership and relationship with MRHD. We’ve had great conversations with them, and look forward to working with them, and we want to sustain what (Hard Rock general manager Doug Fischer) and his team have done with that relationship.”

Churchill Downs purchased other properties outside of Sioux City

This isn’t the first acquisition for Churchill Downs of a Peninsula Pacific Entertainment property. Earlier this year, the company announced the purchase of several P2E gaming properties.

The total property sale came out to $2.5 billion. It included seven Virginia horse race tracks and a New York casino.

“P2E has done an exceptional job developing and managing this collection of assets, which we are very excited to acquire and plan to strategically grow in the years ahead,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said at the time.

Originally, the agreement terms outlined that Peninsula Pacific Entertainment would sell the property associated with the Hard Rock to a third party. From there, Churchill Downs would acquire the operating company and lease the property to that third party.

In the end, Churchill Downs decided to own and manage the casino property itself.

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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, who currently works for the USA Today Network. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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