Hard Rock in Atlantic City

Ocean Resort Casino, Hard Rock Both Open in Atlantic City

It is an exciting weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey as two casinos opened on Thursday, June 28th: Ocean Resort Casino and Hard Rock Atlantic City. It is expected that as many as one million people will visit the East Coast gambling hub this weekend as the four-day celebration rolls on.

Ocean Resort Casino Hopes To Do What Revel Couldn’t

Ocean Resort Casino is the former Revel, an absolute travesty of a property that, one hopes, has been reborn. Revel opened on April 2nd, 2012, at a cost of $2.4 billion. It was supposed to be the luxury casino to compete with the Borgata, but even before construction was complete, Revel Entertainment Group had trouble funding it. It closed less than two and a half years later, on September 2nd, 2014.

The sale of Revel was as much of a debacle as its construction and operation were. It was put up for auction and Glen Straub’s Polo North Country Club put in the only bid by the September 23rd deadline, for just $90 million (remember, it cost $2.4 billion with a “b” to build). For whatever reason, the auction was then delayed a week, so a furious Straub upped his bid to $95.4 million. Another offer came in, though, this one from Brookfield US Holdings for $110 million. That offer came in the middle of the night on September 30th, causing Straub to rage out.

Then, in November Brookfield backed out because of a deal Revel had made with ACR Energy Partners to finance the power plant next door. In January 2015, a bankruptcy judge awarded the Revel to Straub, but then an appeals court reversed the decision because the property’s tenants complained that the sale allowed Straub to cancel their contracts.

Eventually, Straub re-entered negotiations for the casino and finally bought it in April 2015 for $82 million. In June 2016, he announced he was going to reopen the property as a smaller-scale casino and in September 2017, he renamed it TEN, but it never ended up reopening.

Finally, in January of this year, Straub sold the former Revel to Denver-based developer Bruce Deifik for $200 million. Deifik is no kook and from day one, sounded like he was extremely excited to have the chance to revive the Revel.

On Thursday, after the ribbon was cut on the Ocean Resort Casino, Deifik told The Press of Atlantic City, “I really have felt that there’s a renaissance that’s been happening (in Atlantic City). Things are changing.”

Revel was one of four Atlantic City casinos that closed in 2014, with a fifth, the Trump Taj Mahal, closing in 2016. Thousands of jobs were lost. But with the return of Ocean and Hard Rock, plus the launch of sports betting, optimism is high in the city.

“How cool is this?” said State Senator Chris Brown to The Press. “We have over 3,500 families here in Atlantic County who are back to work thanks to (Deifik).”

Actor Mark Wahlberg was on hand at Ocean Resort Casino to place one of the first sports bets – along with Deifik – at the casino’s William Hill sports book, as well as announce the upcoming opening of a Wahlburgers restaurant on the property.

Hard Rock Replaces Another Big Name, the Trump Taj Mahal

Over at the Hard Rock, which is the former Trump Taj Mahal, the atmosphere was a bit more rambunctious, but considering the history of the brand, that was to be expected. The Taj Mahal used to be the center of the poker world on the east coast, even featured in the classic poker film, Rounders. But Donald Trump’s company took on boatloads of debt to build and operate the casino, which opened in 1990, and after multiple bankruptcies, it was taken over by Tropicana Entertainment and real estate mogul Carl Icahn in February 2016.

The history of the Taj from that point was about as dumb as that of Revel. Icahn promised to inject $100 million into the Taj Mahal if he got tax breaks from the state and city and received concessions from the Unite Here Local 54 union. He didn’t get the tax breaks, but did get the concessions, taking away the union’s health care and pension benefits. He never invested the $100 million.

The union attempted, in good faith, to renegotiate their benefits, but Icahn wouldn’t talk, so about 1,000 workers went on strike on July 1st, 2016. In August, Tropicana Entertainment announced the Taj would close, blaming the workers. It closed on October 10th, 2016. Icahn had spats with New Jersey and Atlantic City for months after that, but he finally agreed to sell the Taj Mahal to Hard Rock in early 2017, finalizing the deal in April 2017.

The grand opening of the Hard Rock was punctuated with a celebratory guitar smashing, starring actor Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther), with E-Street Band drummer Max Weinberg doing his thing on his kit. The rest of the weekend, there are concerts galore. Carrie Underwood performed Friday night, as did Weinberg, while Pit Bull hits the stage Saturday night. As one would expect from the Hard Rock, the calendar is full of music performers and comedians.

“We are not just here for a business opportunity,” said Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen. “We believe in Atlantic City, we believe in the State of New Jersey, and we truly believe Atlantic City’s best days are in front of it.”

Lead photo credit: Hard Rock Atlantic City Instagram

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