Circle Thursday, June 28 on your calendar, if you haven’t already, and, if you want to be part of history in the making, come to Atlantic City. Later you will look back on this unforgettable day and proudly say you got to experience first hand the unprecedented double debut of two new casinos — Hard Rock and Ocean Resort!
The last time a new casino opened in Atlantic City was in 2012, with the debut of the Revel, and we all know what happened to that $2 billion debacle. Then, over the next few years, what made the local headlines was not new casino openings but casino closings.
Atlantic City had a record four in 2014, including not only the Revel, but also the Hilton, Showboat, and Trump Plaza — followed by the Trump Taj Mahal in 2016. That left us with only seven casinos remaining, but seven proved to be a lucky number, and way sooner than the skeptics thought possible, Atlantic City was on the rise again.
Now Atlantic City is about to experience an even bigger rebirth. For starters, Atlantic City finally has legal sports betting. But wait— there’s more. June 28 marks the long-awaited grand opening of two new casinos — Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino.
It’s the first time in Atlantic City history that two casinos are opening on the exact same day. Bring on the fireworks!
How Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casinos came to be
Although Showboat reopened as a non-casino hotel, the proliferation of closed casinos along the Atlantic City Boardwalk was not a pretty sight. And for all the of people who lost their jobs, as a result, they were a sad reminder of the thousands of others in the same boat.
However, with the announcement that two new casinos were planning to open this summer, hope was on the horizon.
The former Trump Taj Mahal had a buyer and so did the former Revel
Ever since Hard Rock purchased the former Trump Taj Mahal in March 2017, the excitement and anticipation that the news brought to this town have been unlike anything Atlantic City has experienced in years. The opening of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino couldn’t happen soon enough.
Then, in January 2018, just when many people were on the verge of giving up hope that Revel’s replacement — then named TEN — would ever open, the incredible happened. It was announced that another company, Ocean Walk, headed by Bruce Deifik, had purchased the property from then-owner Glenn Straub, and after extensive renovations, modifications, and enhancements would rebrand it as Ocean Resort Casino, with a projected summer 2018 opening.
Both casinos decide to open on the same day
On April 18, Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen officially announced that the grand opening of the resort was “set in stone” for Thursday, June 28.
That announcement was soon followed by rumors that Ocean Resort Casino was also planning to open June 28, but confirmation didn’t come until May 7 when the resort’s CEO Frank Leone officially announced that Ocean Resort Casino would indeed open on June 28.
Leone confidently described Ocean Resort as “a culmination of all our planning and… a special day for Atlantic City as it turns the page on a new chapter of revitalization.” And when asked whether Ocean Resort Casino would be ready to open on June 28 (less than six months after purchasing the property), the response was, “Absolutely!”
However, apart from all the last-minute construction, hiring, and other details that still needed to be worked out at both places, there was another problem. Both resorts still needed a license!
Hard Rock Atlantic City, Ocean Resort get casino licenses
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Hard Rock was granted a license on May 9. After listening to testimony from key executives, the decision of the Casino Control Commission was unanimous.
The combination of the company’s financial stability, longstanding record of success operating other casinos both in the US and abroad, focus not just on gambling but on quality entertainment, and obvious commitment to the Atlantic City community made approval a no-brainer.
Ocean Resort Casino
Ocean Resort Casino was also granted a license, but not until June 21, one week before opening day.
Winning the Commission over wasn’t easy, and it took two days of testimony and deliberations before it ruled in the casino’s favor.
Approval was conditional
Even then, the license came with a long list of conditions from state regulators at the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). Most importantly, the Commission needed more assurance of the company’s financial stability.
One would think that laying out $200 million to purchase the property and nearly $50 million more to renovate it would have been convincing enough, but it is important to keep in mind two very important facts.
Deifik and the parent company, Ocean Walk, don’t have the many years of experience that Hard Rock could claim successfully operating other casinos. In fact, they have none. Secondly, the Commission clearly did not want a repetition of the same financial blunders that were made with the Revel.
So their cautious approach is understandable.
What convinced the Commission to grant Ocean Resort Casino a license
Fortunately, Ocean Resort’s top executives were able to allay the commission’s fears.
Chief Financial Officer Alan Greenstein said that the resort anticipates getting about 10.5 percent of the Atlantic City market during its first year of operation and 12 percent by 2021. He also predicted that during its first year the property would take in $292 million in gambling revenue and $127 in non-gaming revenue.
Leone mentioned Ocean Resort’s willingness to listen to and address the frequent complaints of guests at the Revel. The previous ban on smoking and minimum two-night stay requirement for overnight guests have been lifted, and the obstructive wall on the Boardwalk side of the property has been removed and replaced with an accessible entrance.
Leone promised “an unwavering commitment to exceeding guests expectations.”
Deifik echoed those sentiments and mentioned the partnership with Hyatt Hotels and unique amenities that the resort will offer like free parking, the 7,500 square foot state-of-the-art sportsbook in the works with partner William Hill, and the largest indoor TopGolf Swing Suite in North America. He predicted that Ocean Resort will “surprise the world.”
The Commission was duly impressed, and Ocean Resort Casino finally got its license.
What to expect at Hard Rock and Ocean Resort casinos opening day
Both casino hotels held “soft openings” on Monday and Tuesday, June 25-26 where invited guests had the opportunity to test the waters, stay overnight, and sample the resort’s games, restaurants, and other amenities. This is a traditional practice when new casinos are about to open to give the facilities a chance to fine-tune details and make sure everything will run smoothly when they open to the public.
Meanwhile, state regulators also have the opportunity to conduct inspections to ensure compliance.
Both soft openings were a success and both casinos were not only given the go-ahead to hold their grand openings June 28 as scheduled but to open to the public on June 27 — a day early — which they did!
Hard Rock planned to be the first of the two casinos to open on June 28, which is only fitting, given that long before Ocean Resort even came into the picture, it was hard at work doing what needed to be done to make the crowning achievement a reality.
Back in April, Allen said: “If we can’t do it right, we’re not going to do it.” Now they have done it, and from all indications, they have done it right.
What to do opening day
At 11 a.m. a grand opening guitar smashing ceremony will take place in the Hard Rock LIVE Mark Etess Theater.
After that, you’re free to play in the casino, hit the beach, and sample any of the many open restaurants and lounges or, in other words, spend the day and evening however you please. You can also enjoy special amenities unique to the Hard Rock like the Rock Shop, Rock Spa & Salon, and Body Rock Fitness Center.
You won’t be able to place any sports bets at the Hard Rock Atlantic City — at least not yet, but with 2,100 slots and 120 table games to choose from, you will find all the action you need. Being bored is not an option!
But when it gets close to 10 p.m., it’s your cue to stop whatever you’re doing (unless you’re in the midst of a super hot roll of the dice or are waiting to be paid a huge slots jackpot) and head straight to the Boardwalk to watch the fireworks.
Do set aside time to eat while you are at Hard Rock. This casino offers a big enough variety in dining choices to satisfy virtually anyone’s tastes and cravings.
Those who visited and dined at the Trump Taj Mahal will be happy to see that the famed Il Mulino is back. Other fine dining options include the Japanese restaurant Kuro and the Chinese restaurant Song. Or for the freshest seafood in town, Council Oak Fish should fit the bill perfectly. The new eatery boasts a music lounge and wine tasting room along with an open kitchen and beach views. Obviously, if you wish to dine at any of the foregoing places, reservations are in order.
However, if you prefer a more casual restaurant, don’t worry. Hard Rock has plenty of options in that category—starting with the most obvious choice, Hard Rock Café. This place is set up to do double duty as an entertainment venue, so we recommend timing your visit accordingly to coincide with one of the free performances there (see the entertainment schedule below). Other casual dining options include the Fresh Harvest Buffet and the YOUYU Noodle Bar.
Opening weekend entertainment
Hard Rock Atlantic City has promised no less than 300 nights of entertainment during its first year and, true to its word, is wasting no time getting started. Here is what is on tap — and all free of charge — just for June 28.
- 12 p.m. Lobby Bar – Johnny O
- 1 p.m. Hard Rock Café Boardwalk Stage – Song Blast
- 1 p.m. Beach Bar – Smashed Band
- 3:30 p.m. Lobby Bar – Nicole Henry
- 4 p.m. Hard Rock Café Boardwalk Stage – Jerry Blavat
- 6 p.m. Lobby Bar – Matt Giraud
- 7 p.m. Lobby Bar – Spencer Battiest
- 8 p.m. Beach Bar – Quinn
- 9 p.m. Hard Rock Café Boardwalk Stage – Phil Sendek
- 9:30 p.m. Council Oak Lounge – Nick Fradiani (2015 American Idol winner)
- 9:30 p.m. Lobby Bar – Groove Marmalade
- 10 p.m. Hard Rock Café – Frankie Moreno
Of course, there will be a lot more great lounge entertainment all weekend long. You can check the complete lineup here.
However, 10 p.m. is still early, so at DAER Nightclub at Hard Rock that can only mean one thing. The party is just getting started! Here’s the entertainment lineup for the first three nights: Thursday: Michael B. Jordan, Friday: Tiesto, Saturday: Ludacris.
In addition. Hard Rock spared no expense to bring in two major headline entertainers for this weekend: Carrie Underwood at 8 p.m. Friday night and Pitbull at 8 p.m. Saturday night. The Carrie Underwood show is reportedly sold out, but if you can still get tickets for either show, expect to pay premium prices.
Ocean Resort Casino
Ocean Resort Casino will have its grand opening at 1 p.m, a mere two hours after the Hard Rock guitar smashing. But if you want to attend the opening day festivities at both casinos, no problem. The two casinos are within an easy walking distance of each other. Hard Rock is at 1000 Boardwalk and Ocean Resort is at 500 Boardwalk.
Ocean Resort Casino has not been as forthcoming as Hard Rock about what special events and festivities it has in store for the massive crowds coming to check the place opening weekend. However, the up side is the added fun of hopefully being pleasantly surprised.
Guests can who would like to try their luck in the casino can choose from 2,000 slot machines, more than 100 table games, and eight poker tables, and sports betting is yet another option. You read right. While the new 7,500-square-foot state-of-the-art sportsbook won’t be ready for about another six weeks, the casino will be taking sports bets in a temporary location starting June 28.
Hopefully, you will set aside time for a good meal while you’re at Ocean Resort Casino because like Hard Rock, this resort offers some excellent choices. Here are some you might consider:
Upscale dining (reservations are necessary)
- Amada – Jose Garces’ famous restaurant for Spanish cuisine
- American Cut – Marc Forgione’s steakhouse
- Dolce Mare – Italian cuisine
- Café 500 – open 24/7
- Distrito – Mexican street food
- Sky Café – for lunch or dinner on the pool deck or overlooking the ocean
- Villain & Saint – if you like rock ‘n’ roll with your food
- Zhen Bang – for noodles and sushi
Opening weekend entertainment
Ocean Resort Casino is planning lots of top entertainment for the opening weekend. In fact, according to the Press of Atlantic City, actor and comedian Jamie Foxx, will be on hand to host the festivities. Diplo will perform at HQ2 Nightclub and Beachclub on Friday, June 29, followed by Jermaine Dupri and Kaskade on Saturday, and Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano on Sunday.