Cherokee Nation Ink Deal With Hard Rock

Cherokee Nation Enterprises LLC entered a deal Friday, Nov. 14, with Hard Rock Hotel Holdings LLC and HRHH IP LLC that, pending review of the National Indian Gaming Commission, will enable the company to brand its expanded hotel and casino in Catoosa under the Hard Rock Casino name. The Hard Rock Casino Tulsa will be the first Hard Rock-branded property in the Midwest.
David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Enterprises, said the deal has been over a year in the making.
“Part of our strategy is to be the market leader and be new and innovative, and to always try to raise the bar,” Stewart said. “That desire lead to a review of national brands that would really take this to the next level and set us apart.”
Stewart said the search was difficult, because most national brands want to take over management of hotel and casino operations.
“We know our customer, and we are very successful in the gaming industry,” Stewart said. “We really didn’t want to give up control of our operations. What we wanted to do was to enhance that experience for the customer and give them something they can’t get anywhere else, and in that way also reach a new demographic of people.
“The Hard Rock brand is respected internationally and attracts a broad group of people. It has something like 98 percent brand recognition worldwide, which is outstanding. We started looking at how we could bring that brand here and make it fit with the uniqueness of the area, and it turns out Tulsa has a rich history of music. When you combine those two factors, it is just a perfect fit, so we approached them sand said, ‘We really want to do this on these terms.’ We really started working this out about a year ago.”
Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, said in a press release he wanted to make sure people understood the level of service associated with the casino will not change.
“What should be clear is that the Cherokee Nation retains full ownership and management of all of our facilities. This is a marketing mechanism to share the Cherokee hospitality that we are known for,” Smith said. “The Hard Rock brand is another tool that we are using to create a diversified, growing economy in northeastern Oklahoma.”
Stewart said he sees the Hard Rock brand as something that sets the Catoosa casino apart from the rest for three reasons.
“One, or course, is the brand,” Stewart said. “The Hard Rock experience is an experience that is completely unique, that no one can duplicate. The second thing is that, being part of the Hard Rock family, we can exchange points and make our points system a little more valuable, so when you game at any of our casinos, you can also take those points to any Hard Rock casino as well. Also, the access to entertainment and memorabilia and all the guts and the feel of the Hard Rock sets us apart.”
Stewart said he thought the branding would be a big attraction in the Tulsa area.
“It really puts us on the map,” Stewart said. “To be included with Hard Rock London, Las Vegas, Athens, and now Tulsa, it’s cool for the area. We think Tulsa deserves it.”
Once complete, the Hard Rock Casino Tulsa will be a newly expanded, premier entertainment and destination resort featuring: a 19-story tower and a total of more than 350 guest rooms; a 110,000-SF casino; a relaxing indoor/outdoor pool; 30,000-SF of convention space; a 2,500-seat multi-purpose theater for concerts and sporting events; several new restaurants and cocktail lounges featuring live entertainment.

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