In case you’ve been living under a rock, Atlantic City threw a great, big party yesterday.
Exit all references to Trump Taj Mahal and Revel Casino Hotel. Enter the new kids on the Boardwalk, Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino.
Both properties received final approval from gaming regulators on Wednesday, and the pre-party got started a day before the official pomp and circumstance.
PlayNJ.com’s Eric Ramsey was on site at both properties giving readers a play-by-play of the festivities. There is no mistaking his wit as he celebrates this momentous occasion with the masses.
Here are the highlights from Atlantic City’s big day:
Hard Rock Atlantic City smashes its way onto the Boardwalk
There is no denying that Hard Rock Atlantic City won the media war leading up to the grand opening. It invited the press to join it on the journey as crews completely transformed a shuttered casino into a property worthy of the Hard Rock brand.
Its grand opening was lavish and filled with traditions that come with opening properties around the world for more than 47 years. Before heading to the Mark G. Etess Arena for the grand opening ceremony, Hard Rock held a Q&A in a ballroom upstairs.
“This is a financially sound project,” Jim Allen, Hard Rock International chairman, said. “We do not have outside debt. We do not have to worry about bond holders and interest payments and all those things that, frankly, has been some of the troubling things that have occurred in Atlantic City in the past.”
Allen went on to talk about the importance of a robust Atlantic City, and he would consider Hard Rock a failure if the casino just stole customers from its competitors.
“We want to make sure people are proud of Atlantic City. This is not just about Hard Rock,” said Allen.
At last, the time came for Hard Rock to open its doors officially. Of course, a ribbon cutting just won’t do for Hard Rock. Instead, the property celebrated in true Hard Rock style with its world famous Guitar Smash.
Actor Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther,” “Creed”), Bruce Springsteen’s drummer, Max Weinberg, Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola, and New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney were among the smashers.
Let the games begin.
Ocean Resort Casino is having a ball, too
Following the smashing success of Hard Rock AC’s grand opening celebration, Ocean Resort Casino held a more subtle grand opening.
Subtle has been a characteristic of Ocean Resort throughout the year. It worked feverishly to transform one of Atlantic City’s biggest failures into “a new and adventurous way to experience The Ocean.”
The grand opening ceremony took place on the Boardwalk where Bruce Deifik, chairman and owner of Ocean Resort Casino, talked about bringing business back to the city. The self-described “chief ambassador” was surrounded by Mark Wahlberg, Mayor Frank Gilliam, and Miss New Jersey.
“I’m not sure the Boardwalk has ever been this busy on this side of town,” Deifik said to the crowd. “But that’s about to change.”
NJ sports betting was the big theme of the day for Ocean Resort, which launched its temporary sportsbook yesterday. It is the first sportsbook on the Boardwalk and the second in Atlantic City after Borgata.
Talking to the press after the official ribbon cutting, Deifik said he wants to bring esports to Ocean Resort and boxing back to Atlantic City.
William Hill US CEO Joe Asher and Dennis Drazin from Monmouth Park were both on site checking out the action, too. Wahlberg had the honor of placing the ceremonial first bet ($200 on Patriots Super Bowl futures 6/1).
Deifik testified in front of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in order to obtain a gaming license just eight days before the property’s grand opening. His passion for this project was abundantly clear.
“It’s taken a lot to get here,” he said emotionally when asked what the venture meant to him.
Well, Ocean Resort Casino has arrived, and all the hard work has paid off.
It may not be as flashy as Hard Rock, but for those folks looking for a relaxing, luxurious experience, Ocean Resort just might be what the doctor ordered.
Two grand openings, but wait there’s more
While the celebration on the Boardwalk captured our attention, a press release made its way into the news announcing the launch of the Hard Rock online casino.
Hard Rock Online Casino is now open for a limited number of hours per day. It is limiting play to 500 concurrent players.
Don’t fret: Ocean Resort will be online soon. The casino announced it’s expecting to launch its online casino on July 1.
Now that the casinos are operating and a collective sigh of relief is making its way down the Boardwalk, Atlantic City can start to rebuild its damaged reputation.
Hard Rock AC said it best: “What a day!”