Dan Gilbert Sells Controlling Interest in JACK Entertainment, Two Ohio Casinos

Written By Martin Harris on January 21, 2021 - Last Updated on July 26, 2022

Folks in Ohio are well familiar with both the JACK Entertainment casino company and billionaire Dan Gilbert, majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

Indeed, the two entities have been linked ever since Rock Gaming, a company founded by Gilbert in 2009, changed its name to JACK Entertainment in 2016.

That association, though, has now come to an end.

Last month, Gilbert completed the sale of controlling interest in the company to JACK Entertainment’s management team. The sale gradually took place during the latter half of 2020, though it only became public in recent days.

Newly headquartered in Detroit, JACK remains Ohio-based

News of the deal’s completion arrived over the weekend via a company statement shared with Cleveland Jewish News.

In the statement, Matthew P. Cullen, chairman of JACK Entertainment, confirmed the ownership change was completed in December 2020. Cullen also shared that JACK Entertainment offices relocated from Cleveland to Detroit.

That said, the company will remain prominent in Ohio via the JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino in North Randall. JACK Entertainment operates both properties through a lease-back agreement with VICI Properties.

Cullen noted how JACK Entertainment continues as the lone Ohio-based operator of any of the state’s 11 casinos.

Cullen shared no further details regarding the deal, omitting mention of how much the JACK Entertainment management team paid Gilbert to acquire his interest in the company.

Gilbert’s exit ends influential era for Ohio gaming

Gilbert’s departure bookends a more-than-decade-long period during which the billionaire’s role in Ohio gaming development has been especially significant.

The co-founder of Quicken Loans helped lobby for the statewide referendum that, when passed in 2009, paved the way for casinos in the state.

Gilbert’s company Rock Gaming then partnered with Caesars Entertainment to open the state’s first casino, Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, in 2012.

Three years later, Rock Gaming acquired Caesars’ interest in the property. The following year, the company rebranded it as JACK Cleveland Casino. That deal also saw Rock Gaming take over management of JACK Thistledown Racino, which opened in 2013.

In 2020, JACK Entertainment sold both Ohio casinos to VICI for $843 million. VICI subsequently leased the properties back to the company at $66 million per year.

As in other states, Ohio casinos endured a difficult 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted revenue and growth. Year-over-year revenue for both JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino decreased by 28% and 19%, respectively.

Photo by AP / Carlos Osorio
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