Hard Rock Sioux City casino sold to Peninsula Pacific Entertainment

Saturday 14th December 2019

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A bank of slot machines is shown in an undated photo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City. Los Angeles-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which currently owns 50 percent of the downtown Sioux City venue, announced a deal late Friday afternoon with Las Vegas-based Warner Gaming to buy the remaining 50 percent stake in the property.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

A huge crowd jams into the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City on opening night, Aug. 1, 2014. The property, the first land-based casino in Woodbury County, has been sold to Peninsula Pacific Entertainment.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY -- A company controlled by a longtime Iowa gaming executive now has full ownership control of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City.

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which currently owns 50 percent of the downtown Sioux City entertainment venue, announced a deal late Friday afternoon with Las Vegas-based Warner Gaming to buy its 50 percent stake in the property.

The deal is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2020, subject to regulatory approval.

No changes are expected to the day-to-day operations of the hotel and casino, Peninsula Pacific said in a news release. All Hard Rock employees will continue with the organization.

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, based in Los Angeles, is led by M. Brent Stevens, who once served as CEO of Peninsula Gaming LLC, whose holdings included the Diamond Jo Casino in downtown Dubuque and the Diamond Jo Worth Casino near the Minnesota border along Interstate 35. Founded in 1999 by Stevens, Peninsula Pacific was originally created as the holding company for Dubuque-based Peninsula Gaming, which was sold in 2012 to Boyd Gaming Corp. in a $1.45 billion deal.

In 2013, after the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission invited applications for Woodbury County's first land-based casino, Stevens formed a 50-50 partnership with Bill Warner, CEO of Warner Gaming, which originally pitched the Hard Rock-themed venue for Sioux City.

"Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City is a highly successful property that offers the best dining, gaming and entertainment experience in the region," Stevens, who serves as chairman and managing partner of Peninsula Pacific, said in a statement Friday. "We have a long history with Hard Rock, and in Iowa communities, and we are excited to continue to grow our community engagement and investment in Sioux City."

The pending sale means the end of Bill Warner's association with the Hard Rock property in Sioux City. He was the public face of the $128.5 million project as it moved from the drawing board in the fall of 2012 to the completion of the nearly year-long construction in August 2014.

By a 3-2 vote, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission selected in April 2013 selected the Hard Rock's group proposal that included renovating the historic Battery Building in the 300 block of Water Street over two other potential operators and three different sites. The other applicants included Penn National Gaming, which owned the former Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino, and Ho-Chunk Inc., which proposed a downtown casino at the site of the historic Warrior Hotel.

"We have enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City over the last six years," Warner said in a statement. "Moving forward, the property is in great hands with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, and I look forward to seeing it continue to grow and thrive."

Warner Gaming will continue to operate its other properties, which include the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.

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In its application for the Iowa license in 2013, Warner's group partnered with Missouri River Historical Development, a local nonprofit gaming group that holds the Hard Rock Sioux City's state gaming license.

MRHD executive director Mark Monson, after learning about the sale on Friday, spoke positively about Peninsula Pacific Entertainment.

"Their corporation is fabulous," Monson said. "Couldn't ask for a better group to take over the Hard Rock. I just see it only getting better."

The Hard Rock Sioux City offers more than 800 slot machines; 26 table games including craps, poker, blackjack and Texas hold'em; and three dining options, including the gastropub, Main + Abbey. The casino this fall also opened a sportsbooks after the state legalized betting on professional and college sports.

The Hard Rock complex also includes a 54-room boutique hotel, an indoor entertainment venue called Anthem and an outdoor venue known as Battery Park.

In October, the Hard Rock opened a $10.9 million parking garage at 205 Pearl St. The four-story, covered parking garage has some 530 parking spaces and offers some 15,000 square feet of retail space at the corner of Third and Pearl Streets. Retail tenants of the building have not yet been announced.

The 245,000-square-foot garage extends over Third Street and joins the Hard Rock at a vestibule on the south side of the casino on Third Street.

The ramp was built in partnership with the city, which footed roughly $5.5 million of the cost, largely because the ramp is hoped to benefit Tyson Events Center patrons.

In January 2013, Warner's group secured up to $35 million in financing from an entity controlled by Stevens. The investment, which Stevens eventually converted into a 50 percent stake in the development, strengthened Hard Rock's application for the state gaming license by putting more equity into the project and sharply lowering financing costs.

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment's current properties include del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo, New York, DiamondJacks Hotel and Casino in Bossier City, Lousiana, Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent, Virginia, and Rosie's Gaming Emporium locations in Richmond, Hampton, and Vinton, Virginia.

"Providing outstanding service and quality is a never-ending priority at each of our Peninsula Pacific Entertainment properties, including Hard Rock," Stevens said. "This is a step in our direction to continue improving the Siouxland with an exceptional place to work, a memorable place to stay or play, and a way for us to contribute to the region's economy."

The Journal's Mason Dockter contributed to this story.

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