Can Atlantic City Handle Two, Possibly Three, New Casinos By End Of Summer?
By the summer of 2018, at least two new casinos are expected to be open in Atlantic City. But before the end of the year, there could be a third, which would bring the grand total back up to 10.
Last year, casino profits skyrocketed, proving that seven is indeed a lucky number. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that nine or 10 casinos will be as good or better for Atlantic City. TEN was certainly not a lucky number for Glenn Straub, but that’s another story entirely.
On the other hand, if ever the time was right to add new casinos to the mix, it would seem to be now. It’s a gamble, but that’s what this town is all about. If people weren’t willing to take risks, Atlantic City would never be what it is today.
New casinos in Atlantic City
The two new casinos that are definite are Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City (the former Trump Taj Mahal) and Ocean Resort Casino (the former Revel/TEN).
In addition, Bart Blatstein, owner of the Showboat property is eager to restore casino gambling there as well. On August 31, 2014, in a much-criticized move, the previous owners, Caesars Entertainment, closed the casino at Showboat even though it was showing a profit. The Showboat was the second of four Atlantic City casinos to close that year.
Where will the new casinos be located, and when will they open?
Hard Rock Atlantic City
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City will be located on the site of the former Trump Taj Mahal, which Hard Rock International purchased from Carl Icahn last year for $50 million. However, Hard Rock has committed approximately $500 million to completely renovate the property.
Fans can rest assured that Hard Rock Atlantic City will not only offer the first class amenities they are looking for but set itself apart from other Atlantic City casinos by staying true to the theme for which the brand is known worldwide. Hard Rock Atlantic City will bear little resemblance to the former Taj.
Hard Rock AC opening date
Hard Rock Atlantic City is now scheduled to open in June of this year. Previously a Memorial Day weekend opening was projected, but surely everyone who has been patiently waiting a whole year for this momentous event can wait a couple of weeks longer.
While opening in time for the huge holiday weekend crowds would have been nice, I am actually glad it’s not happening. Nothing should detract from the limelight that should belong solely to Resorts that weekend as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.
As of this writing, the precise opening date for Hard Rock Atlantic City has not yet been revealed. However, it will be announced at a press conference on Wednesday, April 18, along with the entertainment lineup.
Ocean Resort Casino
In January 2018, the company AC Ocean Walk purchased the former Revel (aka TEN) from Straub for $200 million and renamed it Ocean Resort Casino. (Straub paid less than half that amount in 2015 to bring the company out of bankruptcy, then held on to it, doing nothing but making empty promises.)
Unfortunately, one of the many problems that almost certainly contributed to the original Revel’s demise was its remote location at the far north end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Even with Jitney service, that problem will still exist when the casino reopens at the same 500 Boardwalk location unless the new owner is willing to provide shuttle service.
The distance from even the closest casinos, combined with the sprawling nature of the property itself entails more walking than most people can comfortably handle. However, an attached parking garage with space for 7,700 vehicles will certainly make the resort more accessible to drivers.
Partnership with Hyatt Hotels
The new owners have reportedly committed $175 million toward renovating the property. Other encouraging news is the partnership with Hyatt Hotels.
The Atlantic City resort will become part of the Hyatt brand’s Unbound Collection. Hyatt, besides being an instantly recognizable name in the hotel industry, offers considerable experience and expertise as the owner/operator of multiple other casino resorts both in the US and abroad. That and its large customer database make it ideally positioned to help Ocean Resort Casino overcome the massive disadvantage of being preceded by a casino hotel that was a failure from the get-go.
Summer opening expected
A sign with the new name is already up, and other signs around the property carry the message that “something beautiful is coming spring/summer of 2018.”
Spring may be a tad too optimistic. At this point, a summer opening is projected, but no definite date has been designated.
Caesars Entertainment initially sold the Showboat to Stockton University. However, the plan to convert it into a dorm for students never materialized, and in 2016, developer Bart Blatstein bought the Showboat from Stockton and reopened it as just a hotel.
Now, Blatstein wants a casino at his property, too. When Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort open, Showboat will find itself sandwiched in between two new and highly anticipated casinos.
The desire to reopen a casino is more than just wishful thinking on Blatstein’s part. In February 2018, he submitted his application for a gaming license to the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). If he is found eligible, the Casino Control Commission will then render its decision. Then, assuming he is approved, he will still have to apply for a casino operator’s license.
Gambling on three new casinos in AC
All the games that can be played in a casino are games of chance, where any given player’s outcome can be either favorable or unfavorable. However, the same applies on a much bigger scale to a casino itself, particularly when it is a new venture starting from scratch. It’s a gamble, in which many things can go right, but also many things can go wrong, and one need look no farther than the history of Atlantic City for proof.
At this point, with none of the new casinos even open yet, all anyone can do is offer an educated guess. I will attempt to do that now for each of the projected new casinos, one at a time.
Hard Rock Atlantic City
This company not only has the financial resources to succeed in this highly competitive business, but also the expertise and experience. In fact, Hard Rock International already draws more than 100 million visitors annually to 288 currently operating properties in 74 locations.
Hard Rock manages to seamlessly blend together an instantly recognizable brand that appeals to different generations of visitors with meticulous attention to quality in every area of service.
In the words of Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International:
“If we can’t do it right, we’re not going to do it.”
The new casino will offer 2,400 slot machines and about 130 table games. Along with the standard games, other betting options will include skill-based slots, betting on fantasy sports, and special gambling rooms for VIPs. In addition, guests will be able to enjoy such amenities as poolside and restaurant gambling, two state-of-the-art concert venues, additional concerts on the beach, and even an option to rent an electric guitar for room use.
Considering all that Hard Rock has going for it, it’s hard to envision any outcome but a resounding success.
Ocean Resort has its work cut out for it if it is to succeed with the same property that failed so dismally as the Revel. However, I think it is possible, and the partnership with Hyatt should help immensely.
The casino is expected to offer 2,200 slot machines and 100 table games. In addition, if and when sports betting becomes legalized in New Jersey, Ocean Resort expects to be ready with what Chairman Bruce Deifik calls a “best in market” state-of-the-art sportsbook.
The resort hopes to bring back some of the more successful Revel restaurants, as well as offer some exciting new dining options. Some of the other amenities will include the above-mentioned parking garage, a concert hall seating 5,700, and a high-end players club.
This facility is the biggest question mark. For starters, we don’t even know yet if Blatstein’s application will be approved. But even if it is, all the money in the world can’t make up for one glaring gap in his credentials: Blatstein has no casino experience.
What he brings to the table instead is an impressive resume as a very successful Philadelphia-based developer. He also owns multiple properties in Atlantic City, including the Playground (formerly the Pier at Caesars).
On the other hand, two years have elapsed since he acquired the Showboat. Other than reopening it as a hotel, there is no indication that he has done anything out of the ordinary there, such as offer dining or entertainment of anywhere near the same caliber as the leading Atlantic City casino resorts.
Many older gamblers have fond memories of the original Atlantic City Showboat and would love to see its casino reopen. However, it takes a lot more than deep pockets and real estate know-how to run a casino successfully.
Anticipation is high in Atlantic City
Like it or not, Atlantic City will soon have nine casinos again and possibly as many as 10. Whether or not the new casinos will succeed remains to be seen, but Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort are clearly in the game to win. And there’s a good chance they will win over a large segment of the gambling public.