Global casino and hotel operator Hard Rock International is collaborating with VICI Properties to buy Jack Cincinnati Casino and Turfway Park from Dan Gilbert’s Jack Entertainment for $780 million. Through the joint purchase, Hard Rock is acquiring the operating assets of the casino, rebranding it Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, while VICI owns the land and real estate. The deal expands Hard Rock’s presence in Ohio. “Hard Rock has been the number one operator in Ohio since opening in the greater Cleveland market in 2013,” said Jim Allen, chairman and CEO of Hard Rock International. “And now, we look forward to introducing our unique brand of casino entertainment to Cincinnati. On behalf of the 40,000 Hard Rock team members worldwide, I am pleased to welcome the more than 1,000 Jack Cincinnati employees into the Hard Rock family.” Said Jack Entertainment CEO Matt Cullen: “We viewed the gaming industry as a catalyst for economic development in our local communities. After ten years, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment developing Jack Cincinnati Casino from the ground up, and establishing a strong customer focused culture, we have successfully positioned Jack Cincinnati Casino for further future success.” Jack Entertainment is a gaming and hospitality company that owns properties in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit under the Jack brand, along with the Horseshoe Baltimore and Kentucky Turfway Park. In 2018, Jack agreed to sell the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit to Penn National Gaming Inc. (Nasdaq: Penn). Gilbert is the founder of lending and financial services company Quicken Loans Inc. He is also the majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Advisors to Jack on the current deal include: Credit Suisse Securities, Deutsche Bank Securities and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Advisors to Hard Rock include: Jones Day and Fox Rothschild.

Casinos are facing competition from online betting, thanks to May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Fans have unprecedented access to online sportsbooks this March Madness. More Americans are expected to place bets on the college basketball tournament than the Super Bowl, with the American Gaming Association’s predicting that about $8.5 billion in wagers will be placed on the tournament. On Saturday, Auburn takes on No. 1 Virginia, and Texas Tech matches up against Michigan State in the Final Four. Online betting and data companies, including sportsbooks from DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars, are drawing basketball fans and interest from investors. M&A is rampant throughout the sector. Related: March Madness: DraftKings, FanDuel, Action Network draw fans, dealmakers.

Deal news
Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT), a technology maker for government agencies, is buying Harris Corp.’s (NYSE: HRS) night vision business for $350 million. The divestiture is part of the deal for Harris’ merger with L3 Technologies (NYSE: LLL). Harris makes communication and electronic systems for government customers. Jefferies is advising Elbit.

Branford Castle Partners-backed Earthlite has bought Tara Spa Therapy, a supplier of lotions and creams to hotels and spas. Brandford was advised by Akerman.

Carlyle Group (Nasdaq: CG)-backed financial services company CFGI has acquired accounting firm Pine Hill Group. The target was advised by JMP Securities. The advisor to CFGI is Global PMI Partners. Read the full story: M&A roundup: Deals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida.

Center Rock Capital Partners has acquired the Merit Distribution Group, a supplier of paint, flooring and installation supplies.

Highview Capital has acquired Frontier Fire Protection, a provider of fire safety services.

For more deal news, see The weekly wrap: Ferro, HGGC, Thoma Bravo.

For more on PE fundraising, see PE fundraising scorecard: Arsenal, Roark, Shoreview.

People moves
Jimmy Holloran has joined ParkerGale as a principal, where he is concentrating on investment due diligence and talent strategy with the PE firm’s portfolio. He was most recently with meal-kit company Home Chef.

Krisin Wigness has joined law firm McGuireWoods as a senior counsel, where is he focusing on financial restructuring. Wigness was previously with Katten Munchin Rosenman.

Ken Baggett, a former chairman and CEO of Top 100 Firm CohnReznick, has died. Baggett helped create CohnReznick through a major merger in 2012, and as co-CEO and later chairman of the board, helped establish it as a top national advisory, assurance, and tax firm. Read the full story: CohnReznick mourns former chair and CEO Ken Baggett.

Featured content
Excelled. Innovated. Inspired. That’s what the eight winners of Mergers & Acquisitions’ 12th Annual M&A Mid-Market Awards did in 2018. Our awards honor the leading dealmakers and deals that set the standard for transactions in the middle market. In addition to Nike, award winners include: Nike, Fortive, TA Associates, the Riverside Co., Harris Williams, Monroe Capital, Goodwin and Luminate Capital Partners’ Hollie Haynes. Read our full coverage: Meet the winners of the M&A Mid-Market Awards: Nike, Fortive, TA, Harris Williams.

Related: Read more about Mergers & Acquisitions’ three annual special reports, including the M&A Mid-Market Awards, the Rising Stars of Private Equity, and the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A.

Mergers & Acquisitions has produced a wealth of compelling content recently. In case you missed any of it, we’ve put together a short list of 5 M&A stories you don’t want to miss, including the winners of the 2018 M&A Mid-Market Award winners, top investment banks and PE firms doing tech deals. Here are more details on our recent coverage: 5 M&A stories you don’t want to miss

The way consumers shop continues to change. Customers want to put their own touch on products, not wait too long for them and in most cases, never step foot in a store to buy them. Apparel and sneaker retailers, such as Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE), the winner of Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2018 Mid-Market Award for Strategic Buyer of the Year, and Foot Locker, are embracing these challenges by snatching up companies that help provide customized products to customers. Read the full story: Sports retailers Nike, Foot Locker buy digital startups to help customize sneakers.

Technology M&A is thriving, and private equity firms are hot on the trail of innovations that will drive sustainable value to customers and make companies more efficient, more effective and less expensive to run. Among the developments appealing to PE investors are: artificial intelligence, data management, data virtualization, digital marketing, healthcare IT, industrial automation, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine learning, payment processing and Software-as-a-Service. To gain more insights into what kinds of tech deals will dominate the field in 2019, Mergers & Acquisitions reached out to 10 private equity firms that are active investors in technology: Francisco Partners, Genstar, Great Hill, HGGC, Insight, LLR, Riverside, Silver Lake, TA and Vista. Related: 10 private equity firms share strategies for tech M&A.

Mergers & Acquisitions has named 36 leaders the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, including Kainos Capital’s Sarah Bradley, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors’ Nishita Cummings and Pelham S2K Managers’ Venita Fields. All 36 are outstanding dealmakers both inside and outside of their firms. This year, we asked the featured dealmakers to tell their own stories through Q&As, including their advice for women. Related: Meet the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A.

InterGrowth 2019 is taking place from May 6-8 at the Waldorf Astoria & Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando, Florida.

Innovation Works is holding its second annual AI/Robotics Venture Fair in Pittsburgh from on May 15 and 16.

ACG Chicago is hosting the Midwest Capital Connection at The Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile from May 21-22.

ACG New York, ACG Boston and ACG Philadlephia are holding the Industrial Conference with Value Creation at the Infor in New York on June 6. The event is part of the Northeast Industry Tour.

ACG Minnesota is hosting the The Upper Midwest ACG Capital Connection at the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot from June 10-11.