Updated May 9 and May 30, 2018
Hard Rock Atlantic City is moving full speed ahead in preparation for a June 28 opening date, and as of Wednesday, May 9, is another major step closer toward meeting that goal. The Casino Control Commission has officially approved the new hotel and casino for a casino license.
Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen first announced the June 28 opening date at a widely publicized press conference on April 18. He also stated that the opening date of June 28 “is 100 percent set in stone.”
What he did not say, however, is that the target date is contingent not only on all renovations being completed by then but also on the casino being granted its license and the building passing all inspections.
Now, with its license secure, Hard Rock is well on the way to meeting the deadline. But what about the other new casino in Atlantic City, Ocean Resort Casino? Is it doing the same?
Surely one thing that Hard Rock wasn’t planning on for June 28 was having company. More specifically, with so little time and so much still to do, the possibility that Ocean Resort Casino could choose the same exact day, either coincidentally or on purpose, was probably the last thing on Allen’s mind.
Hard Rock AC assumed it would be first
Ever since Hard Rock officially revealed its opening date at its April 18 press conference, the question of the day suddenly shifted to when Ocean Resort Casino would be opening. Hard Rock wasn’t privy, any more than the rest of us were, to advance information. However, from its standpoint, as long as Hard Rock was up and running first, Ocean Resort Casino’s opening date didn’t matter.
Hard Rock, the first new Atlantic City casino to announce an opening date in 2018, was primed to be the first new casino to open in Atlantic City in 2018. And from the way the head honchos were talking, nothing was going to get in their way.
A rumor at Ocean Resort Casino becomes a roar
Even after the Hard Rock opening date was announced, for a whole week, the only answer that appeared to be forthcoming about when Ocean Resort Casino would be opening was the same one we were given all along. Ocean Resort Casino will open “this summer.”
Then a rumor started and spread, and on Wednesday, April 25, it became the Press of Atlantic City headline of the day: “Ocean Resort Casino aiming for June 28 opening, same day as Hard Rock.”
Multiple newly hired employees reportedly contacted the Press, stating that they signed an agreement to report to work on June 11 in anticipation of a June 28 opening date for the property. June 11 and June 28 were reportedly the only two dates mentioned.
So why weren’t top officials informed at the same time?
On the other hand, Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam and City Council President Marty Small both said that as of late April, when the Press of Atlantic City contacted them on the matter, that they had received no official notification that Ocean Resort Casino was going to open June 28.
Likewise, Dale Finch, director of the Atlantic City Department of Licensing and Inspections, indicated that he had not yet been given an exact opening date for Ocean Resort either. However, he visited the property recently and admitted to there being “a lot of activity” there.
No longer a rumor: June 28 opening date confirmed
Two weeks later, on Monday, May 7, Ocean Resort Casino finally confirmed that the new facility will indeed open June 28, the same day as Hard Rock Atlantic City. In the words of CEO Frank Leone, Ocean Resort will be a “culmination of all our planning and … a special day for Atlantic City as it turns the page on a new chapter of revitalization.”
Ocean Resort Casino is determined not to repeat the kinds of mistakes that led to the failure of its predecessor, the Revel. Bruce Deifik, chairman of parent company AC Ocean Walk, wants to assure the public that its team has “put a great deal of time and effort into creating a truly unique and memorable destination guest experience.”
Ocean Resort Casino still lacks a license
Even so, a June 28 opening date can only happen with a license. And Ocean Resort Casino is still waiting for one.
An application for a license has been filed, which is currently under review. However, to date, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has yet to complete its report. The mandatory hearing before the Casino Control Commission has yet to be scheduled.
Can Ocean Resort open after six months of renovations?
If Ocean Resort Casino can be fully licensed and ready to open June 28, congratulations are in order.
After developer Glenn Straub purchased the shuttered $2.4 billion Revel in August 2015 for the bargain price of $82 million, the property just sat there languishing for nearly 2 ½ years. Although Straub promised the moon, actions speak louder than words, and nothing happened. And from the look of things, it appeared that the property then named TEN would never open. Straub’s insistence that he didn’t need to apply for a license personally because he planned to lease the running of a casino to a third party was a major reason.
Then, suddenly, out of the blue, in January 2018, under the leadership of Colorado-based investor Bruce Deifik, the property was sold for $200 million to a company called AC Ocean Walk and renamed Ocean Resort Casino.
Hard Rock International acquired the former Trump Taj Mahal over a year ago in March, 2017. It has since spent more than $500 million on top of the $50 million purchase price to completely transform the property.
In comparison, Ocean Resort Casino’s renovation needs and budget were nowhere near as extensive. But even so, taking a property that was a failure from day one and turning it into a brand new one that can carve a niche for itself in an already crowded and very competitive market in the span of just six months would be an amazing feat.
A look inside at Ocean Resort Casino
Assuming Ocean Resort succeeds — and its recently announced partnership with Hyatt should help greatly — here is a brief summary of what guests and players can look forward to at the new facility.
The aptly named Ocean Resort Casino will be a full-service resort overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, at the far north end of the Boardwalk. The Atlantic City City Council has already given initial approval to have the street called Revel Boulevard renamed Ocean Beach Boulevard and that section of the city renamed Ocean Beach in lieu of Revel Beach.
The 138,00-square-foot casino floor is expected to offer 2,200 machines and 100 table games, while the hotel will have 1,399 rooms. Other promised amenities include 13 restaurants, nightclubs, a concert hall seating 5,700, five pools, a spa and fitness center, and a parking garage large enough to accommodate 7,000 vehicles. There will also be ample space for retail shopping, conventions, and special outdoor events.
In addition, a deal was made just last week with Topgolf Swing Suite to offer the world’s largest virtual golf experience, including 11 simulation bays, a lounge, and panoramic ocean views.
Most importantly, now that sports betting has become legal in New Jersey, Ocean Resort Casino plans to be ready as soon as possible with an easily accessible state-of-the-art sportsbook in the middle of the casino floor. The renowned sportsbook operator William Hill has signed on as a partner in this project. Ocean Resort Casino also plans to launch its own NJ gambling website in the future.
Dual openings on June 28: good or bad?
Assuming both casinos do open simultaneously on June 28, as scheduled, which will open first and which will open second remains to be seen. Either way, I can’t imagine that Hard Rock Atlantic City is happy about having its competitor open on the same day. I’m not in favor of the idea either. I think Ocean Resort Casino not only needs more time but can benefit greatly by observing the reaction to Hard Rock’s opening.