It’s been a rough half-decade for Atlantic City. The once bustling gambling town shuttered several casinos and found itself in severe financial trouble. That struggle even prompted the state to take control of city management.
But now what was once despair has turned into hope.
The summer openings of Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino bring a level of excitement back to the city it hasn’t seen in years. And as the summer creeps ever closer, that excitement is coupled with the question of which AC casino will come out on top.
Hard Rock Atlantic City prepares for a big opening
While both properties are working feverishly to open their doors on The Boardwalk, there is no doubt Hard Rock International, in particular, is betting big on its newest property.
The iconic brand is busy erasing all signs of the former Trump Taj Mahal and creating a property that genuinely reflects the Hard Rock name. The renovation process has been a public one, and every step has made headlines.
Serious anticipation swirls around the property, which is expected to house 2,400 slots and 130 table games. From the 53-foot-high guitar sign to the new beach bar at Maryland Avenue and Steel Pier, to the 200 planned nights of live music, Hard Rock Atlantic City commanded local news these past few months.
At this point, it seems every move Hard Rock Atlantic City makes is the right one, including naming its new entertainment venue Hard Rock Live at the Etess Arena.
The name pays tribute to Mark G. Etess, the president and chief operating officer of the Trump Taj Mahal who died in a helicopter crash in October 1989. This connection to the community is vital to Hard Rock Atlantic City.
Sometime in April, expect an announcement of the inaugural performer at Hard Rock Live at the Etess Arena. We predict a name to draw big crowds to the city’s biggest party of the year.
Community support is key to Hard Rock AC’s success
Jim Allen, the chairman of Hard Rock International, realizes a fancy new building, a big guitar, and great entertainment doesn’t seal the deal for his new property.
Hard Rock Atlantic City has made a concerted effort to keep residents and the city informed about its renovation. The management team recognizes community buy-in is essential.
In a meeting with community members in February, Allen said:
“We will not get to the next level unless we bring together the community and the casino to get to the next level.”
Allen admitted investing $500 million into the property was a risk. However, he expressed confidence that the project will not only survive but also thrive.
“The brand can drive people back to Atlantic City,” said Allen, as reported by The Press of Atlantic City. “We have a diverse, eclectic list of assets to drive business back to Atlantic City.”
Don’t count out Ocean Resort Casino
Now, Ocean Resort Casino isn’t seeking daily headlines like Hard Rock Atlantic City. That said, it boasts big plans.
It’s poured $175 million into renovating and rebranding the former Revel Casino. Those plans include table games and slot machines filling 138,000 square feet of gaming space.
“It is our mission and vision to fully serve the customer base of Atlantic City,” said AC Ocean Walk Chairman Bruce Deifik in a press release earlier this year.
“In that regard, we are working to bring back some of the restaurants that were successful at the property, and we have worked diligently to create some specialized new venues including a top Asian noodle bar and a high-end players club.”
Deifik is also committed to bringing a state-of-the-art sportsbook to the property. But there’s a catch.
New Jersey and the entire United States is awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in Christie v. NCAA. In this suit, the state seeks to nullify a federal law that limits sports betting to specific states.
In that same press release, Deifik said:
“Atlantic City is coming back with a vengeance and with the groundwork for the legalization of sports betting, we foresee a great opportunity to bring a state of the art sports book to a city which caters to a large and diverse sports market.”
So who will succeed: Hard Rock AC or Ocean Resort?
On the surface, it may seem an obvious choice to pick Hard Rock Atlantic City if you consider these openings a head-to-head matchup. The much larger brand is making headlines and outspending its competition.
Ocean Resort Casino, on the other hand, has been a bit quieter. There is something to be said for keeping your head down and getting the work done though.
Both parties plan to open NJ gambling sites later this year, and once the licensing goes through, they will be on easy street. In the end, both properties are bringing hope, jobs, and some swagger back to The Boardwalk.
So who wins? Atlantic City, of course.