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Hard Rock Casino Vancouver opens in Coquitlam

Jimi Hendrix' luggage, Ginger Spice's boots, and Steve Tyler's lap. This is the Hard Rock's first (officially-licensed) foray into Vancouver.

The Hard Rock Casino Vancouver opens in under 24 hours. GM Raj Mutti isn't nervous at all.

Project-managing rock 'n' roll

The Hard Rock's PR team is settling upon a hashtag for the media tour, as corporate wasn't cool with #HardRockLife. We're aboard a limo shuttle for the media tour of the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, which opens for real today.

We're given a few hashtags from which to choose, and I immediately vote for #VanRockCity, since it reminds me of the criminally-underrated "Detroit Rock City".

Soon the rock 'n' roll bus is on its way into Coquitlam, and I couldn't help but think of David Lee Roth's "California Girls" video.

What was once Boulevard Casino is now the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver. Great Canadian Gaming Company, its owner, touts it as the largest casino in BC. The yearlong renovation has cost over $15 million, and they’re hoping to lure in that much-coveted younger audience.

From back in the day

There’s something undeniably retro about the Hard Rock Cafe brand. Back in the Eighties, a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt from a city other than your own was the ultimate been-there-done-that souvenir for a 14-year-old.

These days, social media gets you closer to rock stars than you could have ever imagined: having a beer near Def Leppard’s guitars isn’t quite as interactive as trolling them on Twitter (Not that  condone trolling).

The timing of the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver isn’t ideal, coming as it does on the heels of the Kendall Report, which states that problem gambling in British Columbia has doubled in the last five years.

Also, there's the report on the extent and scope of illegal gambling in BC, in which the RCMP describes BC casinos as "extremely vulnerable" to money laundering due to the sheer volume of cash that moves through those casinos' doors.

The first Hard Rock Cafe was opened in 1971 by a pair of American expats in London. The name itself was most likely cribbed from the Doors' "Morrison Hotel": it's alternate title was "Hard Rock Cafe".

From Americana abroad to rock 'n' roll artifacts, the Hard Rock brand spread around the world. The company expanded into hotels and casinos starting in 1995, and, though various locations have opened and since shut down, you can find a Hard Rock Cafe from Anchorage to Chennai. The Hard Rock Cafe franchise (as well as nearly all of the Hard Rock properties) is now owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Warwick Stone (referred to by Las Vegas Weekly as “The Sultan of Stuff”)  is the memorabilia curator for the Hard Rock. Here in Coquitlam, he’s still in the process of sourcing and displaying rock swag; even within 24 hours of showtime.

Warwick Stone

Standing in front of eight Tina Turner portraits, Stone tells us that Jimi Hendrix memorabilia (which has its own wall here in Coquitlam) is the most sought-after: "Everyone seems to want Jimi in this neighbourhood." (But not in Jimi's old neighbourhood: Hogan's Alley is gone.) Here behind us, we can see Jimi Hendrix' guitar. Jimi Hendrix' jacket. Jimi Hendrix' luggage. Even Jimi's luggage was cool.

A legend and his carry-on.

Stone says that "all the good stuff's in the lobby", for that one moment when a visitor first steps onto the property. The lobby is still a work in progress.

Gambling: By the numbers

While the Edgewater tries to convince us that it's an "urban resort", the Hard Rock is quite clear on being a casino. General Manager Raj Mutti tells us that there are 950 slot machines on the premises, as well as 46 gaming tables and 12 dedicated poker tables; including a few private high-stakes tables. These number, he says, are unchanged from the building's Boulevard days.

It's difficult to hear Mutti over the cacophony, though. Modern-day slot machines are very loud, and there are a lot of them.

Between the constant noise and the images of alluring-yet-unattainable women that you see on many of the slot-machine displays, the space reminds me of an Osaka pachinko parlour, without the cigarette smoke.

Hello, sailor.

... Though some of these women beckon from the afterlife.

¿Tienes suerte, punk?

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