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Hard Rock International starts Support Services company

By Nick Sortal

The Seminole Tribe of Florida started off with a bingo hall in 1979, purchased Hard Rock International a decade ago, and now oversees properties worldwide. So heck, yes, they’re ready to buy in bulk.

Hard Rock International Chairman James Allen announced Tuesday the establishment of Seminole Hard Rock Support Services, which will coordinate and consolidate certain staff functions. “We expect the new company will help our operations become more effective and efficient,” Allen said.

For those unfamiliar with the company, Hard Rock International consists of 177 cafes, 24 hotels, and 11 casinos, located in 74 countries. Most notable of the casinos are the seven in Florida, whose annual revenues are about $2.2 billion.

Allen chose a casino guy, John Fontana, the president of Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, as president of the new entity. Fontana began working at the Tampa property 36 years ago as a grant writer. He became a manager back when their only product was bingo.

Fontana said he is following the mindset he developed a long time ago. “I think the message for us and the Seminole Tribe of Florida is that Jim Allen is very, very adamant that the philosophy on the business side is you spend this money like it’s your own,” he said, referring to the tribal members who share the profits. “We have 4,000 owners …

“It’s not some owner that’s not there, so watching every dollar smartly and being efficient is important. You’ve seen companies in the gaming world get in trouble by either overleveraging or they overextend, and they think the more casinos they own and operate the more money they make. And they spread their resources too thin. And then they get into trouble.”

On September 30, Hard Rock International acquired development rights for Hard Rock casinos in the western United States and in certain international markets. “Obviously Hard Rock buys many things in bulk, and with Hard Rock International and Seminole gaming what we’re trying to do is combine the duplicated processing,” Fontana said. “It gives us more buying power. If you’re buying software for 40 locations instead of four, you’re going to get a better deal.”

He noted that other major casino companies do the same thing, although the Hard Rock has unique challenges. “It’s a very complex company, doing business in 70 countries and in I don’t know how many currencies, with different laws and customs,” Fontana said. “So consolidation is something you have to do really thoughtfully. You can’t just say ‘Hey we have four of these and now we need one.”

The new operation will bring consistency in the brand overall, Fontana said. “The more things we can centralize, the more consistent the product will be around the world.” Information technology and procurement will be the first two areas of focus.