Atlantic City

Both Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casino to Open June 28th in Atlantic City

I can’t stand crowds. Every Fourth of July, my wife insists on keeping with a tradition of going to the downtown square area of our city with some friends to watch fireworks. Because they close the square to traffic, we have to park a mile away (literally) and lug chairs and picnic bags with us. Then again, even if we could park right at the square, it would be a nightmare.

Walking around before the sun sets is awful, what with the heat, and the blaring music, and the trying to locate my five-foot-tall wife in a sea of sweaty drunks. And fireworks are overrated, anyway. Basically, I’m an old man yelling at a cloud, but at least my wife agreed to quite the Fourth of July parade earlier the day after going twice.* What I’m getting at here is that I probably won’t be heading to Atlantic City two months from now, because the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and the Ocean Resort Casino will be opening on the same exact day, June 28th.

Hard Rock International executives announced the grand opening’s date last week at a press conference. Naturally, the casino will be the draw for the former Trump Taj Mahal property, but Hard Rock, its name and history suggest, aims to be a hot spot for musical entertainment. The likes of the Stone Temple Pilots, Counting Crows, Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, and Steely Dan are all already lined up to perform, as is comedian Amy Schumer.

“We think it’s a great start,” said Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen. “It demonstrates our commitment that we are about entertainment and not just about casino. But, certainly, we look forward to continuing to book more acts and even larger acts. There’s some amazing acts on that list, but, certainly, I think the best is yet to come.”

The property has been closed since October 2016; it opened in 1990. The Taj Mahal was in terrible financial straits from the start because Donald Trump took on way too much debt in order to build and operate it. Carl Icahn, billionaire investor and recently an advisor to the Trump White House, took over the Taj via Tropicana Entertainment in February 2016.

Icahn did nothing to help. He promised to invest $100 million in the property, but only if given concessions from the Unite Here Local 54 union and tax breaks from the state and city. He didn’t get the tax breaks, but got the concessions, as union members lost the pensions and health insurance. The union tried to later renegotiate with Icahn to get their benefits back and when he wouldn’t talk, about 1,000 workers went on strike July 1, 2006. Tropicana soon announced it would close the Taj Mahal, blaming the union.

Hard Rock International purchased the Taj in March 2017.

As for the Ocean Resort Casino, it has not made an official announcement, but The Press of Atlantic City reported that it saw signed employment agreements which listed an “anticipated” grand opening of June 28th and an employee start date of June 11th.

Ocean CEO Frank Leone would not confirm, saying only, “The Ocean Resort Casino Team is committed to opening this summer and looks forward to announcing its highly anticipated opening date soon.”

The Ocean Resort Casino is the former Revel, an even bigger financial disaster than the Trump Taj Mahal; at least the Taj survived for two and a half decades. It opened in April 2012 and cost $2.4 billion to build, but closed in September 2014, a year which saw four Atlantic City casinos board up their doors.

It was a soap opera for the Revel after that, as it went through a bankruptcy auction won by Brookfield US Holdings for $110 million, despite protests and general off the rails behavior from Polo North Country Club boss Glenn Straub, who came in second in the bidding. The original sale fell through in January 2015 and the Revel was awarded to Straub by the bankruptcy judge for $95.4 million. For whatever reason, Revel cancelled that deal only to restart talks with Straub the following month and come to an agreement for a lower price, $82 million. And the casino cost $2.4 billion to build. Yikes.

Straub talked a big game, renaming the joint TEN and expressing all sorts of plans he had for it, but the casino never reopened. It was sold to Integrated Properties founder Bruce Deifik in January 2018 for $200 million. Deifik immediately said it would reopen this summer and sounds refreshingly sane.

*I really don’t need to see every local councilperson waving from the back of a convertible while I sunburn within 15 minutes. The multitude of fried foods is a plus, though I wish they would sell fried Oreos individually. I appreciate a basket of a half dozen, but after one, I’m set.


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