This Thursday promises to be unlike any other day in recent Atlantic City memory, as not one, but two new casinos will open their doors to the public.
The Boardwalk will be buzzing. But while the two properties — Hard Rock AC and Ocean Resort — will make their debuts only hours apart, it’s likely that the Hard Rock’s flair for showmanship will steal the limelight.
The casino’s parent company, known around the world for its iconic restaurants and myriad gambling venues, doesn’t do anything in a low-key way. Hard Rock always goes big.
For starters, that means eschewing regular old ribbon cuttings. Instead, Hard Rock will invite execs and local officials to smash guitars to signal the official opening of the property at 11 a.m. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who recently placed the state’s first legal sports bet, is also expected to make an appearance.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Hard Rock’s much-anticipated opening day festivities, and what you can expect in terms of casino play, nightlife, dining, and, of course, live music, going forward.
First things first. It was a sure bet that Hard Rock, a company built around a rock ‘n’ roll theme, would spare no expense in building out state-of-the-art music venues and bringing in top musical artists from around the globe for its AC casino.
The complex will feature five performance stages spread throughout the property, along with a smaller venue called Sound Waves. In addition, the former Etess Arena (now known as Hard Rock Live) has been expanded and refurbished to accommodate 7,000 concertgoers.
Hard Rock Live
Country megastar Carrie Underwood will headline the inaugural concert at Hard Rock Live on Friday, with rapper Pitbull taking to the main stage on Saturday. At the time of this writing, tickets were still available for both shows, with the cheapest seats going for $200 for Friday and $90 for Saturday.
But that’s only the beginning. Hard Rock Live will play host to a number of other high-profile music and comedy acts in the coming year, including the following:
- Third Eye Blind
- Kid Rock
- Counting Crows
- Blake Shelton
- Steely Dan
- Amy Schumer
Hard Rock has also announced what it calls 365 Live, a revolving schedule of musical performances that will take place each and every day, all year long.
365 Live artists will play on the property’s smaller stages, including the Lobby Stage, the Council Oak Lounge, the Hard Rock Cafe, the Boardwalk Stage, and the Beach Stage. Just in the first week, patrons can expect artists like American Idol winner Nick Fradiani, Idol finalist Matt Giraud, Frankie Moreno, and jazz singer Nicole Henry.
365 Live will kick off each week with a Sunday Jazz brunch and Monday Night Blues show. Grammy award winner Tom Scott will be the first to perform, this Sunday, July 1.
While the Hard Rock excels at creating memorable music experiences, it also has plenty of experience operating its own gambling properties.
Opening day visitors can explore the casino’s ample 167,000 square feet of gaming space, which feature 2,100 slot machines and 120 table games. Poker players will have to take their business elsewhere, as there is no card room currently in the works.
Wild Card Rewards
Hard Rock hopes to hit a high note with its loyalty program, Wild Card Rewards, and will offer newcomers a bevy of incentives to sign up:
- Rewards tier match: Those who bring in a loyalty card from most other AC casinos will be bumped up to an equivalent tier in Hard Rock’s program.
- Tesla Model S giveaway: Signing up for a Wild Card Rewards card will enter you into a sweepstakes with the chance to win a sleek 2018 Tesla Model S electric sedan. The drawing takes place on September 1.
- Complimentary rooms: Simply for showing your current players club card, you could receive either 25% off your hotel stay or up to two nights free.
Sports betting not in the cards — yet
Unlike Ocean, which has partnered with bookmaker William Hill to build an expansive sports wagering lounge on its casino floor, Hard Rock has not yet announced plans to take sports bets. Execs have stated that while they are interested in offering the service, they have been busy getting other aspects of their new casino ready for launch. While this is surely partly the case, Hard Rock may also be stymied by a stadium-naming partnership it holds with the NFL, which has in the past opposed sports gambling.
Online gambling is on the way
Hard Rock wants to conquer not just the land-based NJ casino market, but the virtual gambling space as well. The rock ‘n’ roll brand has partnered with European software provider Gaming Innovation Group to provide online slots and table games to gamblers located physically inside the state.
While we haven’t received an official announcement on the launch date, we expect Hard Rock’s iGaming site to go live perhaps as soon as July 1.
There are already over a dozen online casinos operating legally in New Jersey, which means that Hard Rock will need to spend generously on marketing and promotions if it wants to compete. That makes this a great time to look out for lucrative promos and deals, such as free money sign up bonuses and deposit bonus offers.
Nightlife and Entertainment
If attracting the coveted millennial demographic is the goal, Hard Rock AC’s nightclub DAER will be a big piece of the puzzle. DAER will launch on Thursday night and will offer all of the trappings of a modern nightclub. To top it off, a spate of celebrities, internationally known DJs, and pop artists will make appearances to help create a vibe of exclusivity.
Here’s who you can expect to rub shoulders with during its first two months:
- 6/28: Creed and Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan
- 6/29: DJ Tiesto
- 6/30: Ludacris
- 7/3: Fetty Wap/Party Favor
- 7/6: Grandtheft
- 7/7: KSHMR
Howie Mandel Comedy Club
Pricey drinks and thumping music not your thing? Well, you might want to check out the Howie Mandel Comedy Club. The venue is the America’s Got Talent judge’s first ever comedy club, but it won’t open until July 3. Mandel will perform on the first two nights, while comedians like Jon Lovitz, Augie Smith, Kevin Bozeman, and Greg Hahn will make stops at later dates.
Scores Gentleman’s Club
For those looking for something a little more risqué, legendary strip club Scores, an occupant under the venue’s previous incarnation as the Trump Taj Mahal, will be up and running on opening day as well. Hard Rock was initially not too happy with the thought of a gentleman’s club being located inside its relatively family-friendly property. However, after some legal squabbling, differences were ironed out and the adult nightlife complex was allowed to stay put.
Scores will open at 7 p.m. and remain open until the wee hours of the morning.
Last but not least, hungry Hard Rock patrons will have no problem finding a restaurant to fit their taste and budget. The property will feature some 20 restaurants, and has even revived the beloved Robert’s Steakhouse, long regarded as one of the best of its kind in AC.
Of course, the casino will revolve around the Hard Rock Cafe, which will be positioned smack dab in the middle of the gaming floor. The Cafe will offer the same tasty meals as those made famous by the company’s other restaurants.
In addition to the above, patrons can choose from the following:
- Council Oak Fish: Seafood focused
- Kuro: Hip Japanese cuisine
- Il Mulino: Old world Italian cuisine
- White House Sub Shop: Popular sandwich joint which had also previously operated in the Taj
Time to party
Needless to say, there will be plenty to do, see, and experience at the Hard Rock on Thursday. While sports bettors and poker players may be initially disappointed, the broad range of musical performances, entertainment options, and dining venues should leave even the grumpiest gamblers singing a happy tune.