A dream is starting to become reality for Atlantic City.

The arrival of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City has been much-anticipated along the Boardwalk. The incoming resort has been highly publicized and is poised to rejuvenate the area.

Yet to this point, it has all been talk and goals and talking about goals.

Last week, Hard Rock Atlantic City took its next step toward becoming a brick in the Boardwalk’s rebuild.

Hard Rock Atlantic City hangs up its sign

In April, Hard Rock Atlantic City executives announced the casino’s opening date would be June 28. Even with a two-month-plus window, that seemed like a pie-in-the-sky goal.

Yet Hard Rock has sped through its schedule even from the beginning. And last week, 11 stories above Atlantic City, 22 gold letters signified Hard Rock’s arrival.

“Hard Rock Hotel and Casino” made its first impression along the skyline as the sign went up on the exterior of the property. The occasion is something of a landmark. Since 1990, the building had been only referred to as the Trump Taj Mahal, but with the new signage, it is now a faint glimmer of its former self.

Staying on schedule before grand opening

After taking over the former Taj Mahal, which closed in 2016, Hard Rock Atlantic City executives plotted out a more-than $500 million renovation. Still, as opening day sits less than two months away, the incoming casino appears to be ahead of schedule — in some areas.

A few days before the sign was placed, Hard Rock AC hired its 3,000th employee. At the time, 500 positions were still vacant. Yet a spokesperson for the resort said that more than 20,000 applications had been submitted in “preparation of the highly-anticipated opening” of the casino.

That has Hard Rock higher-ups confident that there will be few employment issues remaining once the casino opens next month.

“Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will hire upwards of 3,500 permanent employees,” the spokesperson said, “and the final push is on to hire the best of the best candidates for the 500 open positions still available.”

Meanwhile, as its company name implies, Hard Rock Atlantic City has been emphasizing entertainment. Already the resort has booked 300 acts that include Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, Third Eye Blind, and Bush. And another announcement featuring its grand opening weekend entertainment will be made this week via the casino’s official Facebook page.

“When we announced that we were going to step in the AC gaming market, we had a different viewpoint,” said Hard Rock chairman Jim Allen. “It’s not about gaming, it’s about entertainment.”

That is not to say there will be no gambling at Hard Rock AC. The casino is scheduled for a license hearing today (Wednesday) in front of the Casino Control Commission as part of the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement fast-tracking Hard Rock’s application process.

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NJ online gaming still key for Hard Rock AC

While providing quality entertainment is at the top of Hard Rock Atlantic City’s to-do list, the casino still aims to reign supreme in NJ gaming.

Hard Rock AC is expected to have 2,400 slots and 130 table games. But the resort is also setting its sights on the NJ online gambling market. After all, online casinos have been growing at a healthy clip over the past year.

The company intends to launch a full-featured Hard Rock online casino either the same day as its Atlantic City grand opening or soon after its debut. The goal for Hard Rock, of course, is to be the best NJ online casinos in a field packed with winning platforms.

In April, Hard Rock teamed up with Swedish online casino game supplier NetEnt shortly after partnering with software platform provider Gaming Innovation Group (GiG).

NetEnt, according to Hard Rock exec Kresimir Spajic, is “known for its innovative and forward-thinking gaming solutions.” GiG, meanwhile, has proven to be formidable, at least in Europe.

There are, of course, still several unknowns surrounding Hard Rock Atlantic City’s online gaming presence and its future on the Boardwalk. Still, as its 22 gold letters hanging 11 stories high suggest, if the casino wants to make an impression, it will do so at will.

Grant Lucas

About

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.