Hard Rock Hotel and Casino AC has finally held its much-anticipated official launch announcement. Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, proudly declared via live stream that the new Hard Rock will open on June 28th of this year.
A long and winding road
The original hotel and casino, when it was known as the Trump Taj Mahal, had a very troubled history. Initially planned in 1983 with a budget of $250 million, costs eventually increased to over a billion dollars by the time the facility opened in 1990. Despite massive mismanaged debt and multiple bankruptcies the facility managed to remain in operation as one of the largest casinos in the world at the time, and was the highest grossing casino in Atlantic City for several years until its success was dwarfed by the opening of The Borgata in 2003.
Taj Mahal was unable to avoid the economic downturn in Atlantic City in the new millennium, and nearly folded alongside the Trump Plaza in 2014. The casino was temporarily saved by investor Carl Icahn but ultimately still closed its doors in 2016, with a loss of 3,000 jobs for the area. Mr. Trump, continuing his history of being incorrect about the casino market, commented, “Once it closes, it’s too expensive to ever reopen it.”
Hard Rock International, which was acquired in 2007 by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, has sought to increase its casino holdings over the last decade and announced in March 2017 that it would purchase the site, renovate it and rebrand it as Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The Seminole Tribe has themselves funded the new hotel and casino, which this time will launch with no debt at all. This will also return the 3,000 lost jobs, and Hard Rock has announced its intent to attempt to provide as many jobs as possible to former Taj Mahal workers.
Hard Rock has claimed that its main goal with the new property is to focus more on the entertainment venues, such as its 400-seat Hard Rock Café and 2000-seat theater, rather than the casino. At the official announcement Allen bragged about several dozen events already booked for the first wave, which will feature acts such as Third Eye Blind, Kid Rock, Counting Crows, Blake Shelton, Steely Dan, and comedian Amy Schumer.
There will also be on ongoing calendar of weekly musical performances such as Monday Night Blues and the Motor City Live Motown tribute concert on Sundays. The beloved Howie Mandel was also brought in to announce the opening his new comedy club at the hotel.
But despite the focus on entertainment, the gaming options will not be lacking. Hard Rock will boast at least 2,200 slots and 125 table games in 167,000 square feet of gaming space, meaning it will still be one of the largest casinos in Atlantic City.
The hotel, which has also been fully gutted and renovated, has more than 2,000 rooms and offers such unique amenities as The Sound Of Your Stay® option, which makes a Fender guitar available for guests to rock out on.
Online offering in the works
As before, the new Hard Rock Casino Online is expected to launch alongside or shortly after the brick-and-mortar casino opens. Hard Rock appeared to be itself gambling on software from Gaming Innovation Group, a successful international developer of online casino games but with no current experience in the New Jersey market. However, the later announcement of additional partnership with NETENT means that well-known popular titles like the hit Divine Fortune slot will also be available.
Already a play-money app called the Hard Rock Social Casino is available which may indicate a rough idea of the software quality that can be expected of the real-money casino on the way. The Social Casino currently boasts 36 slots, 3 table games, 3 video poker games, and 2 scratchers.
Allen also comments on Hard Rock’s high ambitions for continued growth in Atlantic City, pointing out experts predicted that the market would continue to decline and by this year would have dwindled below $2 billion, but thanks to the last three years of sustained growth the market is again back up to $2.7 billion.
With optimistic projections, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino may be able to successfully contribute to the continued rebuilding of Atlantic City’s economy. So far the current land-based market appears that it will be able to sustain at least one more major player, and the online market has continued to grow with each new casino.
Meanwhile, the opening of Ocean Resort Casino (similarly built on the ruins of the historically troubled Revel) is still also expected this summer, but not anticipated to curtail the potential success of Hard Rock in any significant way.