Tracing its history back to London in 1971, Hard Rock is also known for its collectible fashion and music-related merchandise and Hard Rock Live performance venues. In 2007, Hard Rock was purchased by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and since then it has been headquartered in Orlando, Florida. The company owns, operates, and franchises cafes in cities including London, New York, San Francisco, Sydney, and Dubai. Hard Rock began operating casino properties more than two decades ago, beginning with the first Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in 1995.
Hard Rock Japan was launched in 2017 by its parent-firm Hard Rock International in order to pursue an IR license in the Japan market. The appointment of the experienced Edward Tracy to lead this effort gave heft to the initiative. Hard Rock emphasizes that it is a music and entertainment company more than a casino company.
Family Name: Allen
Given Name: James
Profile: In charge of the gaming operations of the Seminole Tribe of Florida since 2001, Allen played a key role in the tribe's purchase of Hard Rock International in 2007. He has played the leadership role since that time.
Family Name: Tracy
Given Name: Edward
Role: CEO for Asia
Profile: Tracy has more than thirty years of experience in the casino industry, with especially notable stints as CEO of the Trump Organization as well as heading the Las Vegas Sands operation in Macau. Hard Rock plucked Tracy out of retirement in early 2017 to lead its effort to gain a license in the anticipated Japanese market.
Family Name: Machida
Given Name: Ado
Role: President of Hard Rock Japan
Profile: Before his appointment to lead Hard Rock's campaign in Japan, Ado Machida was a sometimes corporate lobbyist and sometimes US Republican Party activist with deep political ties in Tokyo. The most prominent political positions that Machida held were Chief Domestic Policy Officer for Vice-President Dick Cheney and Director of Policy Implementation for the Donald Trump presidential transition team. When not in government he was a lobbyist for the defense industry and other US business groups.
Family Name: Cheng
Given Name: Daniel
Role: Gaming Industry Freelancer
Profile: Cheng joined Hard Rock International in late 2014 after a long stint working for the Genting Group in Singapore and Malaysia. He played a key role in the earliest stages of Hard Rock's efforts to gain an IR license in Japan, but resigned from the company in January 2019. He is currently a gaming industry freelancer.
The decision by Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki to drop out of the Japan IR race does not simply remove one more local government from contention, it also represents the collapse of what was arguably the strongest IR initiative outside of the Kansai and Kanto regions, the regional IR which probably would have produced the highest financial returns.
The central government’s delay in firming up the regulatory framework for the IR industry appears to have convinced new Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki that he might as well shift to a slower lane as well, taking more time to decide his basic policy on whether or not to pursue an IR bid.
Hard Rock Japan’s Tomakomai office has now opened—shortly after the election of Governor Naomichi Suzuki and a conservative prefectural assembly has kept the city’s IR hopes very much alive.
Hard Rock International has confirmed its interest in bidding for a casino license on Australia’s Gold Coast, one of about twelve operators expected to contend for the project, local media reports.
The Nihon Keizai Shinbun held its second IR seminar on March 5, this time in Sapporo, Hokkaido, before an audience of 367 people.
The inaugural Hokkaido IR Showcase came to a close last Thursday, as seven IR operators and numerous other Japanese companies and associations exhibited at the first public IR event to be held in the prefecture.
Hard Rock took initiative at the Hokkaido IR Showcase on Wednesday with a presentation of their master plan for Hokkaido. Chairman Jim Allen presented a building model of their proposed property, making sure to namedrop Japanese electronics heavyweight NEC for their facial recognition technology and luxury hospitality brand Four Seasons for their high-end hotels.
Atlantic City, New Jersey, is beginning to look to Las Vegas and the “non-gaming revenue model” as the key to its future, according to a recent article in the Press of Atlantic City. This development has implications for the future of Japanese IRs as well.
The two-day Hokkaido IR Showcase is set to open tomorrow—Wednesday, January 9—with seven overseas IR operators offering sponsorship to the event. The seven are Hard Rock, Mohegan, SJM, Caesars, Melco, Rush Street, and Clairvest.
Again demonstrating its clear focus on a Hokkaido IR bid, Hard Rock Japan has announced that it has sponsored a snow sculpture for the famous Sapporo Snow Festival to be held next February.
MGM Resorts announced that it has become the first-ever "Official Gaming Partner of Major League Baseball" and "Official Entertainment Partner of Major League Baseball”—an arrangement in which MGM’s IR bid in Japan is clearly kept in mind.
Hard Rock Japan, which is aiming to build an IR at Tomakomai, Hokkaido, has concluded an agreement to become the “Official Top Partner” of Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, the local professional soccer team. The financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
In addition to Clairvest and Hard Rock, both Rush Street Gaming and Mohegan are in the process of opening offices in Tomakomai city, Hokkaido, a report in the local newspaper, Tomakomai Minpo, has revealed.
The selection of Ado Machida to front Hard Rock’s effort to win an IR license in Japan highlights a trend that was already clearly visible—some US operators are attempting to leverage in a not-too-subtle fashion the military and security links between Washington and Tokyo.
Hard Rock Japan has turned to Ado Machida, a sometimes corporate lobbyist and sometimes US Republican Party activist with deep political ties in Tokyo, to help power its IR bid in Japan to a successful conclusion.
It would appear that the competition to partner with the Tomakomai municipal government has now narrowed down to six serious suitors—Caesars, Hard Rock, Mohegan, Rush Street, Clairvest, and Foxwoods.
Hard Rock has unveiled on ongoing series of events by which it is promoting female empowerment in Japan. The name of the program is “Future is MINE powered by Hard Rock.”
Hard Rock Japan announced that it had conducted last month a study tour for a group of students to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Miami, Florida.
Hard Rock International has pledged US$100,000 to the Japan Red Cross for relief efforts connected with the Hokkaido Earthquake, which killed 41 people and injured many more.
Several international IR operators have been meeting with members of the Tomakomai Chamber of Commerce & Industry to discuss their bids to partner with this northern Japanese city.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg television, Edward Tracy, Hard Rock International’s CEO for the Asia-Pacific region, provided insight into his firm’s consortium-building strategy and other matters as it seeks to win an IR license in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.
US casino operator Hard Rock International, which is seeking a license in Japan, has also emerged as a major contender in the race for the Gold Coast’s second casino license, Gold Coast Bulletin reports.
Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, was interviewed by a Japanese camera crew at the June 28 opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, and apparently made definitive comments that Hard Rock’s IR bid in Japan was now entirely focused on Tomakomai, Hokkaido.
Hard Rock Japan is preparing to open an office in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, in August or September, a further signal that the Orlando, Florida, based operator is focusing its IR efforts on this regional city.
Hard Rock International has won the license to build a 2 billion euro (US$2.3 billion) IR near Tarragona in eastern Spain.
The former Trump Taj Mahal casino is being rebranded as a Hard Rock property. It is one of two shuttered casinos due to reopen this summer, along with the former Revel casino, renamed the Ocean Resort Casino.