You could call it a tale of two casinos.
The two casinos converge and diverge among narratives that include maligned former owners and Atlantic City’s rocky history. But the similarities reveal stark differences as well.
Hard Rock Atlantic City, Ocean Resort stand where other properties failed
From 2014 through 2016, Atlantic City was more like the casino Bermuda Triangle than the king of East Coast gambling.
Five casinos closed during the 2014 casino contraction and, in the two years that followed, developers Carl Icahn of the Trump Taj Mahal and Glenn Straub of Revel/TEN were immersed in cantankerous dealings.
Icahn was steeped in a battle with local labor union UNITE HERE Local 54 over benefits. Straub made big claims about casino openings that were nothing more than glittering veils covering his inability to handle development red tape.
When it was announced that Hard Rock International and AC Ocean Walk bought the two properties, there was a collective sigh of relief. That sigh echoed through Trenton’s capital halls and Atlantic City streets begging for a sign of renewal.
Contrasts are just as clear
While both properties share a similar history, they also diverge when it comes to brand power.
Hard Rock is an international powerhouse while AC Ocean Walk was largely unknown to Atlantic City apologists.
In a recent Press of Atlantic City article, Robert Ambrose, a professor of casino management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said each casino’s brand is distinct even if one is still being developed.
“The name recognition certainly helps to identify a property that will be competing with some very well-established brands in the AC market,” Ambrose said.
What’s interesting is that Hard Rock’s larger-than-life approach to its properties will be implemented in a building with a design that is, to put it generously, outdated.
Ocean Resort Casino, meanwhile, will operate in the undulating, almost futuristic glass-paneled lines of the former Revel.
The two ownership groups have also taken different approaches to generating hype leading up to this summer.
Hard Rock rolls out announcement after announcement
Since Hard Rock Atlantic City took over the iconic Trump Taj Mahal, it’s fed the city with a steady stream of press releases. From new design features to construction projects, summer celebrations, entertainment plans, and just about anything that could be deemed as good news, Hard Rock has stayed in the headlines.
In a certain sense, this flow of positive news is exactly what the city needed and is a welcome narrative on the heels of the demise of the Taj. It’s also exactly in line with the global entertainment brand that is Hard Rock.
Perhaps the most prized announcement for AC came when Hard Rock said 3,000 temporary jobs would be created during renovation and construction. An additional 1,000 permanent jobs would be available once construction was complete.
Ocean Resort is choosing the quiet route
As Hard Rock Atlantic City builds momentum for its opening through press releases and press conferences, Ocean Resort Casino has taken a more subdued route.
Most of its news about what’s happening at the property has come via its Facebook page.
On April 23, for example, the casino posted a photo of the entrance to what they said is “the world’s largest” Topgolf Swing Suite. An ABC report about the cutting-edge golf simulation suite notes that customers can use the 11 player bays to play full rounds of golf and other sports.
The Topgolf amenity will also include a lounge and food/beverage service.
The resort-casino’s Facebook page also noted that the property will feature an Exhale Spa that provides clients with a new halotherapy (salt therapy) room for relaxation.
When is Ocean Resort Casino opening? We don’t know… yet
However, the property’s owners did not confirm those rumors. Instead, they told the Press an official opening date would be announced soon.
No official timetable or deadline was given for the announcement, which is a far cry from Hard Rock’s preview and pre-announcement announcement.
The oddity of opening the same day may indicate that Hard Rock’s announcement surprised Ocean Resort Casino execs. Or it could mean that Ocean Resort is looking to capitalize on the influx of visitors.
Either way, the two casinos have taken all the hype, pomp, and circumstance differently in the lead-up to AC’s biggest summer yet. But that’s as it should be. Two similarly branded casinos opening the same summer — maybe even the same day — isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Everyone likes a little variety.