July 4th is only two weeks away. But why wait till then to enjoy the Atlantic City fireworks? Wouldn’t you like to close out June with a bang, too? Of course, you would!
Big celebrations are happening this Thursday all along and around the North Beach section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. They will be followed by another party on Friday to celebrate the long awaited Grand Opening of Wahlburgers at Ocean Casino Resort.
Then, the following Thursday and Friday, June 27 and 28, the partying continues. Get ready for a celebration the likes of which is going to be so spectacular it is a whole year in the making.
The dual one year anniversary of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort!
AC North Beach Block Party: June 20, 4 PM – 8 PM
On Thursday, June 20, the festivities kick off with the first ever North Beach Block Party taking place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Resorts, Hard Rock, and Ocean Casino Resort will all take part in the fun, along with a long lineup of other businesses and attractions, each showcasing what they have to offer.
Attendance is FREE and, of course, you’re invited.
Each participating entity will have its own designated area where you will be able to take advantage of free samples and special offers at this family friendly event. There will be plenty of free live entertainment, too.
Expect to do a lot of walking. So be sure to wear comfortable shoes and allow enough time to explore the whole area leisurely. Or if walking is difficult for you,simply hop on a tram or rolling chair for door to door service to wherever you want to go.
And bring along a light jacket or raincoat in case of inclement weather. Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast for the late afternoon and early evening.
Here is a brief summary of the various places taking part in the celebration and what you can expect at each one.
North Beach Block Party participants
Ocean Casino Resort
- Live DJ
- Ticket giveaway
- Sidewalk sale and retail discounts
- Giveaways from William Hill Sportsbook and Professional Fighters League
- Photo ops with 1927 Lounge & Speakeasy Dancers
- TopGolf Swing Suite free games (including Foosball, Jenga, pool, and more)
- Free hats and bags
- Free parking for Player’s Club cardholders
Additional special offers inside the resort:
- Amada, American Cut, and Villain & Saint: Happy Hour special starting at $7
- Distrito: $2 Margarita and $2 Tacos with Player’s Club card until 5 p.m.
- Retail discounts at The Shops at the Row
Note: In case of inclement weather, Ocean’s special offers that would otherwise take place outside the resort on the Boardwalk will be moved to inside the valet area entrance.
Hard Rock Atlantic City
- Live entertainment in Hard Rock Café Backstage, Beach Bar, and Lobby Bar
- Summer Concert ticket giveaways
- Free rock band photo-op
- Spin to Win wheel
Resorts Casino Hotel
- Live entertainment from Bacardi Ardi and DJ Eric Smokey Starr at Landshark Bar & Grill
- Fun games to win prizes, including Beer Hoisting, Corn Hole, and Dice Roll
- Resorts famous pretzel cheesesteaks and $3.50 footlong hot dogs.
- Live DJ
- $20 buckets of Budweiser and Bud Light
- $7 pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris
- $10 wings, chicken tenders, and black Angus sliders
- Live music at the Steel Pier Pub
- Discounted ride tickets
- Discounted walking tacos
- BBQ grill
- Happy Hour ice cream
- Margarita specials
- Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at all bars
- Strolling entertainment, jugglers, and balloon artists
Tennessee Avenue (between Pacific Avenue and the Boardwalk)
- MADE Atlantic City Chocolate Bar: Free samples of Bean-to-Bar artisan chocolate
- Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall: Play Monopoly to win $1 beer cards and $10 gift cards, starting at 7 p.m.
- Official North Beach Block Party After Party with live music 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
- Iron Room: Free gourmet coffee samples
- Rhythm & Spirits: Free mocktail samples
- All North Beach Block Party attendees will receive $1 off admission to climb the lighthouse and a free entry into a giveaway to win $500.
Music Row Mondays
Last but certainly not least, the North Beach Block Party is your segue into Music Row Mondays starting June 24 and continuing on North Beach every Monday thereafter from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. as long as weather permits.
Why you should attend
Surely at least some of the above will be calling your name.
In the past, the north end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, despite its ideal location overlooking the beach and the Atlantic Ocean, has not attracted as many visitors as the other parts.
This was especially true after the Showboat Casino (now a stand alone hotel only), Revel, and Trump Taj Mahal all closed down, leaving Resorts as the only still surviving North Beach casino.
Now with Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort both about to celebrate their first anniversary plus a wide array other businesses and attractions nearby that will appeal to gamblers and non-gamblers alike, the transformation of the area is incredible.
The June 20 block party is the perfect time to come see what this part of Atlantic City has to offer. Don’t miss this blockbuster party!
Wahlburgers Grand Opening at Ocean Casino
Friday, June 20, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Ocean Casino Resort has been talking about this exciting new restaurant for months.
So if you have been impatiently waiting for the place to finally open so you can satisfy your cravings for one of their mouthwatering Angus beef burgers with your choice of house-made sauces and toppings, here’s some great news.
The wait is over. Wahlburgers is open and ready to serve you!
In fact, you’re invited to come to the official Grand Opening of Wahlburgers that will get underway at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 21. You’ll even get the chance to meet co-owner Mark Wahlberg.
If you enjoy dining in a lively, casual atmosphere in a restaurant where the music, hospitality, and food are all equally great, you will probably love Wahlburgers.
With 32 locations in North America and the UK, it’s surprising that it took so long for this restaurant to finally come to Atlantic City. But now that it has, it should be here to stay for a long, long time.
By the way, while the chain is most famous for its made to order burgers, the extensive menu offers many other excellent choices, too. You certainly won’t go wrong choosing any of their signature salads or sandwiches, for example. But save room for one of their incredible house-made frappes, floats, or desserts. There is even a special “Smahlburgers” menu for kids (or calorie counting adults).
Every item on the menu shows the number of calories, so you know exactly what you’re getting. However, my advice for a place like this is to order whatever you want and not worry about it. Or maybe share your entrée, side dish, or dessert with your companion.
Wahlburgers at Ocean Casino Resort is open Sun.-Thurs. from 11 a.m. to midnight and Fri. and Sat. from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Hard Rock AC & Ocean Casino Resort One Year Anniversary Celebration
Thursday, June 27 & Friday, June 28 – As great as this week’s special events are going to be, the biggest and best are yet to come.
June 27, 2018 will take its indelible place in history as the first time ever, two Atlantic City casinos were opened to the public on the same day.
Now it is a year later and all the naysayers who thought nine casinos were too many for this town are eating their words.
Ocean Casino celebration: Thursday, June 27
Ocean Casino Resort will hold its special one-year celebration on Thursday, June 27. Here is a preview of what will be happening there that day and evening.
Official ceremony announcing the latest improvements at the resort
In fact, during your visit, you’ll have a chance to experience all of the following: two new elevators allowing easier access between floors, 200 new slot machines, more dining and retail options, and a new casino lounge featuring live music and DJs.
- Time: 11 a.m.
- Location: near the casino floor elevators
- Time: 11 a.m.
- Location: casino floor
1927 Lounge & Speakeasy
Experience the new 1920’s themed lounge bar featuring a live DJ and live variety shows.
- Time: 7 p.m.
- Location: Casino floor (where Royal Jelly used to be)
- Time: 9:30 p.m.
- Location: Boardwalk
In addition, $1 hot dogs will be available at William Hill Sportsbook on the 27th and all weekend long.
Hard Rock AC celebration: Friday, June 28
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino has set aside Friday, June 28 as its turn to shine with these special commemorative events.
- Fresh Harvest Buffet $10 Brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- 10x Free Play for all slot players from noon to 8 p.m.
- Press conference at 1 p.m., including a city proclamation and charity announcement
- The Hard Rock Atlantic City Anniversary Parade will proceed down the Atlantic City Boardwalk starting at 4 p.m.
- June 25 marks the start of a four-week residency at the Sound Waves venue for the Broadway and Vegas hit musical Jersey Boys.
- Tim McGraw will perform at Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena at 8 p.m. on both Fri., June 28 and Sat., June 29.
Additional special giveaways all summer long
- One year anniversary T-shirt giveaway featuring a different shirt you can earn each week from July 7 through August 1
- Starting June 28 and continuing all summer long, an opportunity to earn entries based on play either at the Atlantic City casino or Hard Rock Online Casino for the September 1 drawing where one lucky player will win 1 million dollars!
Just in time for Super Bowl 2019, New Jersey residents now have another alternative when it comes to NJ online sports betting.
Hard Rock Atlantic City just launched its new sportsbook app, about a week before Super Bowl Sunday.
The launch of the mobile app marks NJ’s 10th online sportsbook. Bettors within the Garden State now have an abundance of options to find as many odd prop bets as possible before the Patriots take on the Rams this weekend.
Hard Rock AC got permission Jan. 25 from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to begin testing its app for mobile sports wagering. The official soft-play period began Saturday.
A little hiccup before Hard Rock’s launch
The news broke about Hard Rock online sportsbook in part by accident on Friday. Gaming Innovation Group (GiG), the company behind the sportsbook app, sent out a press release, however, it was supposed to be embargoed.
After taking down the release from the website, the app went live the next day.
Despite the mishap, all parties involved are very excited about their optimistic future together.
“We are delighted to have reached another achievement in our partnership with Hard Rock,” said Robin Reed, CEO of GiG.
“Hard Rock has global recognition, unparalleled reach and the same high ambitions as us. We look forward to continuing to support Hard Rock’s growth in New Jersey and expansion around the world.”
Even though the casino missed its opportunity to accept wagers all football season, it will be available for one of the most popular betting days of the year with Super Bowl 2019 and March Madness.
The online book will also be offering lines on other common sports including basketball, hockey, soccer, baseball and college sports.
Hard Rock AC adds a land-based sportsbook
As mentioned, Hard Rock and GiG’s partnership also encompasses a land-based sportsbook at its Atlantic City location. The on-site sportsbook opened for business Wednesday.
The new retail book is still a temporary space with a more expansive, permanent book coming in the future.
Both the land-based and online sportsbooks, as well as Hard Rock online casino, are all powered by GiG. For NJ sports betting fans, this means that the NJ gambling website shares a wallet with its online sportsbook.
Resorts joins the NJ online sports betting crowd, too
Not to be outdone, Resorts launched its self-branded online sportsbook with partner SBTech on Thursday. The addition brings the total online sportsbook count in New Jersey to 11.
Resorts, for its part, already has made a name for itself via its partnership with DraftKings Sportsbook and BetStars NJ. Combined, the two have brought the digital end of the company to the top of the market. Now it has filled its quota of online sports betting skins with three.
Sports betting in New Jersey has been popular from the start when Monmouth Park and Borgata opened their betting windows in June. DraftKings Sportsbook launched in early August as the first online option.
New Jersey’s total handle is now more than $1.2 billion in sports bets. That number should continue to increase, and perhaps very quickly.
When Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City opened along the Boardwalk on June 28, it did so without a sportsbook. However, Hard Rock’s days on the sidelines of the burgeoning New Jersey sports betting game are clearly numbered.
In 2016, parent company Hard Rock International inked a deal with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins giving Hard Rock naming rights to the team’s stadium.
Hard Rock president Matt Harkness told reporters at the casino’s opening the company was focused on the big day and would look at sports betting in the future. However, most understood the NFL’s reluctant approach to sports betting and doing business with casinos may have had something to do with there being no sportsbook there.
Hard Rock and the NFL
In fact, in May, during Hard Rock’s NJ Casino Control Commission licensing hearing, Hard Rock International chief executive Jim Allen admitted as much. He said indeed there were restrictions in its 18-year $250 million naming rights agreement with the NFL. Restrictions that could at least delay bringing sports betting on the property.
Just weeks after the opening, documents revealed Hard Rock had inked a sports betting deal. In fact, it had a deal with UK online gambling company Bet365 in place since June 19.
Apparently, the agreement was just waiting for approval from state gambling regulators to move forward.
Between a rock and a hard place
A little over a month later, it became clear the NFL wasn’t going to stand in Hard Rock’s way.
In August, the NFL Business Ventures Committee reportedly gave Hard Rock the authorization it required to move ahead with sports betting.
In fact, the committee went as far as allowing casinos, with or without sportsbooks, to sponsor NFL teams. Although the casinos can’t explicitly advertise sportsbooks with the teams they are sponsoring.
The decision represents a monumental change in the NFL’s attitude towards the gambling business. It provides a path forward, albeit a mysterious one, for sports betting at Hard Rock Atlantic City… just as long as they don’t suddenly start running ads for a Hard Rock sportsbook at the Miami Dolphins’ home games.
Hard Rock AC and Kindred Group
In the meantime, Hard Rock AC inked another deal in mid-August surrounding online and mobile sports betting.
European gambling giant Kindred Group — the parent company of the popular online gaming brand Unibet — reached an agreement to run online and mobile sports betting operations using Hard Rock Atlantic City’s license for the next decade.
Kindred Group is now pursuing a New Jersey Casino Service Industry Enterprise License.
At the time, Hard Rock International online gaming SVP Kresimir Spajic said the company is proud to partner with one of the fastest-growing operators in the industry.
Additionally, Kindred US SVP Manuel Stan said the company is happy to be joining what it believes will become the largest betting market in the world, with a true lifestyle and entertainment brand.
He also promised to give New Jersey customers an absolutely great sports betting and gaming experience. The only question now is when will that experience begin.
Hard Rock and the NJ sports betting market
As of Sept. 14, eight online and mobile sportsbooks products have already launched in the state. The list includes:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- playMGM Sports
- SugarHouse Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- William Hill
- Caesars Sportsbook
- 888 Sportsbook
Hard Rock AC remains one of only three Atlantic City casinos without a retail sportsbook operation.
The other two are Caesars and Tropicana. However, Caesars has a sportsbook app in NJ, and it’s two sister properties, Harrah’s and Bally’s, have retail sportsbooks. Plus, Tropicana announced in early September it will be partnering with William Hill Race & Sports Book to launch NJ sports betting on the property.
There’s only one question remaining: Will Hard Rock Atlantic City ever join the market or be the last currently operating Atlantic City casino to launch a sportsbook of its own?
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has only been part of the Atlantic City casino scene for two months. Yet this refreshingly exiting new addition to the Boardwalk keeps going above and beyond to prove without a doubt that it is far more than just another casino hotel.
Anyone who has already visited Hard Rock has no doubt experienced some of the unparalleled musical entertainment. Now get ready for a relaxing, but also invigorating and rejuvenating, blissful escape into a totally different experience at the Rock Spa & Salon.
Grand opening of the Hard Rock Atlantic City Rock Spa & Salon
I had the privilege of being present for the grand opening and ribbon cutting of the Rock Spa & Salon on Thursday, August 30.
Even though I was there for the evening reception and therefore didn’t receive any treatments, surrounded by the 51 Miss America contestants, the place felt utterly magical and a world apart from the crowded casino in the same building. Yet there I was on the third floor of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
What makes the Rock Spa & Salon special
Comparing the Rock Spa & Salon to an ordinary spa and salon is like comparing Dom Perignon and a $5 bottle of imitation champagne. There is no comparison.
In fact, the Rock Spa & Salon is a unique offering of the Hard Rock brand. Looking for it at any place other than a Hard Rock property would be pointless. But with 17 other Hard Rock locations in the United States and around the world, how could there not be one in Atlantic City, too?
More than just a spa
According to the complimentary brochure I was handed on my visit, the facility is “more than a spa. It’s an escape.”
The spa promises to “stir the soul, relax the mind, and rock the body.” It’s an opportunity to be pampered like a rock star with anything from a facial to a wide range of massages and other full body treatments.
The spa features 31 treatment rooms, including 20 dedicated massage rooms, four facial rooms, two couples suites, three body treatment rooms, and two Rhythm & Motion rooms. Individual lockers are available in separate areas for ladies and gentlemen, along with steam and sauna rooms that lead to a coed Vitality pool area.
The Body Rock Fitness Center, open 24/7, offers a state-of-the-art Technogym cardio and circuit training equipment. Guests can also sign up for Fitness on Demand, offering a choice of more than 200 premium fitness classes.
Whether you choose to use the facility for an hour, a few hours, or a full day, you will leave feeling vibrant and rejuvenated — almost like a new person.
But bring your wallet or credit card — you’ll need it!
Treatments aren’t cheap by any means, but if you’re fresh off a big win in the casino or money is no object, you might be eager to try the Rock of Love. The spa’s ultimate treatment package for couples includes a body scrub, soak, body wrap, massage, and facial. The full treatment lasts four hours and will set you back $910 (plus a 20 percent service fee), but it does include champagne.
Or, if that’s too much money, Your Body is a Wonderland and It Takes Two, each priced at $590 for 120 minutes, are also available.
Alternatively, individual facials or massages are $135 and up.
At the adjoining full-service salon, customers can receive a complete range of customized hair services as well as signature manicures and pedicures, waxing, and makeup for special occasions. Manicures are $45 and up, while pedicures are $55 for 25 minutes or $75 for 55 minutes.
Rock Spa & Salon rules, policies, and hours of operation
The Rock Spa & Salon at Hard Rock Atlantic City is open every day of the week. The hours vary as shown below:
- Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Sunday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Appointments need to be scheduled in advance by calling 1-609-449-5380. All appointments must be guaranteed with a credit card, and any changes or cancellations need to be made at least four hours prior to avoid being charged.
Children younger than age 18 are not permitted in the spa/fitness area. Guests between age 16 and 18 are welcome in the salon accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Payment and gratuity policies
The Rock Spa & Salon accepts either cash or major credit cards as payment. Alternatively, hotel guests may charge any services they receive at the Rock Spa & Salon to their guest room.
There is a 20 percent service charge automatically added to the bill for those receiving spa services. Additional gratuities are at the guest’s discretion.
Rock Spa amenities
Rock Spa customers will want to allow enough extra time at the facility before or after their scheduled appointment in order to avail themselves of its many special amenities.
In fact, your scheduled visit for services at the spa also includes, at no extra charge, use of the fitness center and spa facility and a robe, slippers, towel, and locker.
While you are there, if you have time, you are invited to enjoy the Rock Spa wet area and vitality pools, so you are encouraged to bring along a swimsuit. However, you are asked not to bring a cell phone, pager, jewelry, or other valuables, as the Rock Spa is not responsible for lost or misplaced property.
Wet area and vitality pools
The Rock Spa wet area is where you can enjoy a steam bath, sauna, hot tub, or cold plunge experience, whatever you are in the mood for at the time. There is also a co-ed vitality pool area featuring a large heated hydrotherapy tub, ambient temperature tub, and a choice of three specialty showers: Cool Mist, Caribbean Rain, or the Atlantic Ocean.
Regular exercise is a vital part of staying healthy, too, and ordinarily, it’s hard to get enough of it if you spend a good part of your time playing in the casino. So be sure to take advantage of the opportunity you have at the Rock Spa to give your body a needed workout.
If you’re a hotel guest, you can visit and avail yourself of this service anytime, even when the rest of the spa is closed. The fitness center is open 24/7.
Another amenity that Rock Spa & Salon guests can enjoy is a juice bar.
In keeping with the overall emphasis on promoting health and vitality, every beverage on the menu is natural, healthy, and low calorie. Guests can choose from a variety of fresh fruit or vegetable juices and smoothies, all with creative and intriguing names.
You never have to wonder what you’re getting because all the ingredients are listed on the menu.
Ordinarily, each drink costs $10, but at the opening night reception, samples of three smoothies were offered free of charge. I opted for the Green Power drink containing spinach, kale, banana, and almond milk. Since I am not a big kale fan (although I know it’s super healthy), I was skeptical how this combination would taste but curious to give it a try.
To my surprise and delight, it was delicious.
Rhythm and Motion services
Of course, this is Hard Rock AC we are talking about, so how could a place called Rock Spa & Salon live up to its name without offering music?
Accordingly, for anyone so inclined, the Rock Spa & Salon is home to the world’s first fully immersive music-centric spa menu. Guests are taken on a “rhythmic massage journey”… sending pulses through the body and leaving you feeling energized and invigorated.”
Choose from the following set list for a “musical massage”:
Synchronicity: $55 for 50 minutes or $215 for 80 minutes
Lose track of time with a pulsating massage infused with natural organic stress-reducing essential oils while listening to some of today’s and yesterday’s greatest hits.
Smooth Operator: $155 for 50 minutes
Two-part body cleansing and hydration treatment starting with a rhythmical dry brushing and finishing with a soothing, detoxifying body wrap.
Face the Music: $155 for 50 minutes or $215 for 80 minutes
A refreshing facial treatment using clinically tested organic products along with sound vibration to hydrate your skin and leave it glowing.
Wrap Remix: $255 for 100 minutes
Intended as the ”ultimate healing experience” including rhythmical dry brushing and a detoxifying body wrap, followed by a 50-minute massage and facial mask. Start and end your treatment with a shot of Rock Spa Detox tea.
Special small group combo packages
The Rock Spa & Salon is also ideal if you and your group are celebrating a special occasion. Whether it happens to be a girls’ getaway, birthday celebration, bridal party, or any other big event, the private VIP spa suite will not only meet your immediate need to look and feel your best, but treat you and your entourage like rock stars.
Depending on your budget and how much time you have, packages of 2 or 2 ½ hours, a half day (9 a.m. – 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.) and full day (9 a.m. – 7 p.m.) are all available. A personal spa concierge can help you reserve the package that is right for you.
Miss America events
It was very gracious of the Rock Spa & Salon to invite the Miss America contestants to be special guests at the grand opening.
Of course, Hard Rock AC is not affiliated with Miss America, so this was something they were not obligated to do. But the presence of these beautiful girls did remind me that the competition to crown the next Miss America is right around the corner.
Here are the scheduled events open to the public, starting with the preliminaries, right up to the final competition next Sunday evening at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Wednesday, 9/5 through Friday, 9/7
Show Us Your Shoes Parade
Atlantic City Boardwalk
Starting 5 p.m.
Final 2019 Miss America Competition
9 p.m. – 11 p.m. (also broadcast live on ABC)
Tickets for both individual events and packages can be purchased either at the Boardwalk Hall box office or through Ticketmaster.
By the way, major changes have been made in the criteria used to select the new Miss America. This year, for the first time, the swimsuit competition has been eliminated and contestants will no longer be judged on outward physical appearance.
Rock Spa & Salon for the win
Hopefully, you will have a chance to visit the Rock Spa & Salon at Hard Rock Atlantic City soon, as well as watch the crowning of the next Miss America, either in person or on TV.
Despite the controversy over the new format, the crowning of Miss America has been a long-standing Atlantic City tradition that hopefully can continue for many years to come. It therefore deserves our support.
Congratulations to all of the contestants for making it this far. Congratulations to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, too, for demonstrating once again with its Rock Spa & Salon that it is far more than just a casino with a hotel. It’s a complete resort unlike any other.
I had the pleasure of attending the June 28 opening day festivities at both Hard Rock and Ocean Resort casinos. I also spent some time checking out what each casino had to offer both that day and on subsequent visits. I will now share my initial impressions of the two new Atlantic City casinos.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casino themes
Even if you have no intentions of playing in the casino, Hard Rock is worth a visit just to see how magnificent it is. Those of you who frequented the Trump Taj Mahal will find it hard to believe it is the same property.
Without the name of the place in big letters, it would be hard to tell some casinos apart. But at Hard Rock, the second you see the 60-foot guitar at the entrance, you know exactly where you are. Pictures of iconic rock stars and extraordinary music memorabilia all over the property and glimpses of live bands playing as you walk by different bars and restaurants also convey the casino’s musical entertainment theme loud and clear.
By contrast, the Ocean Resort name and “Have a ball” tagline could have been that of any casino with a beach view. Therefore, to clearly differentiate it from the other Atlantic City Boardwalk casinos, I think that Ocean Resort Casino could have done a lot more to drive that theme home. Only one restaurant, Dolce Mare, and one retail shop, Flying Point Surf Shop, and none of the bars or entertainment venues have a name one can associate with the ocean.
Creativity and originality
Hard Rock gets high marks
On a related subject, I was most impressed by the creativity and originality that Hard Rock demonstrated in its opening day festivities. In addition to an inspiring video highlighting the awesome teamwork and great sense of pride of the thousands of people contributing to the finished product, each speaker was brought on stage to the accompaniment of a different song fitting the occasion. “We Built This City on Rock and Roll,” “Whatever It Takes,” and “Look How Far We’ve Come” are a few examples.
But perhaps the most fitting of all was the “525,600 minutes” chorus from Rent since the transformation of the former Trump Taj Mahal into the Hard Rock also took place in the span of a year.
But that wasn’t all. The audience was also treated to a spectacular high energy extravaganza that included mesmerizing performances by the Hard Rock girls, acrobats, tightrope walkers, and fire dancers, culminating in fireworks. And then came the grand finale that everyone filling the Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena was waiting for–the unforgettable guitar smashing!
But Ocean Resort’s opening was underwhelming
By contrast, I would have to call the Ocean Resort Casino opening somewhat anticlimactic.
The highlights of the day by far were the free wine and free tastings at four fine dining establishments. However, the show in the Ovation Room featuring a hodgepodge of mediocre “talent” paled in comparison to the magnificent and also flawless production at Hard Rock.
Traveling to Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casino
Both of these casinos are located on the north end of the Boardwalk. Hard Rock Casino is situated where the Trump Taj Mahal used to be, and like the latter, can be accessed directly from the adjacent Resorts Casino. Ocean Resort Casino is situated where the Revel used to be, after the Showboat (now a non-casino hotel).
So if you wish to walk from Hard Rock to Ocean Resort (or vice versa), you certainly can. The Boardwalk is the best route, as that’s where the main entrance to Ocean Resort Casino is. Or if you prefer, you can take a tram or rolling chair to either casino from any other Boardwalk casino. (Check the posted rates and don’t let the rolling chair driver overcharge you.) If taking the jitney, keep in mind that the stop for Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is on Pacific Avenue a long block away, while the stop for Ocean Resort Casino is at the Boardwalk casino entrance.
If you are arriving by car, parking at Ocean Resort Casino is free, but it is not free at Hard Rock.
By the way, the names for the different levels at Ocean Resort Casino can be quite confusing to a first-timer. The Boardwalk entrance level (which is also where the jitneys and cabs stop) is called RB. The lobby, rather than being on the ground floor, is located on a higher floor.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort casino floor
Which of the two casinos will be luckier for you is anybody’s guess, but when it comes to casino gambling, if there’s any bet that’s a sure thing, it’s this. There is zero chance of being bored at either casino. Not with 2,220 slots and 120 table games at Hard Rock Atlantic City and 1,945 slots and 99 table games at Ocean Resort Casino!
Gambling options at Ocean Resort Casino but not at Hard Rock Casino
I did find the Hard Rock casino floor easier to navigate, with numerous signs pinpointing guests to each specific location. However, one part of Ocean Resort Casino you will be able to find very easily, not only because it is smack in the center of the casino floor, but also because there are lots of signs pointing to it, is the William Hill Sports Book.
Until the expanded state-of-the-art sportsbook is ready, hopefully in time for the fall football season, sports bettors will have to make do with a very cramped space and much more likely than not, no place to sit.
But judging by the huge crowds packing the area daily, combined with betting options that rival those at the biggest sportsbooks in Las Vegas, comfort is of very minor importance compared to convenience and conviviality (the bar is one of the casino’s most popular social gathering places). Current hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
At some point, Hard Rock may also offer sports betting (if it can get past the legal complications). Ocean Resort Casino and the Borgata were joined by Bally’s on July 30 as the only places in AC offering sports betting. Then Harrah’s was next to join the NJ sports betting market on Aug. 1.
Another game you will find at Ocean Resort Casino, but not at the Hard Rock, is poker. However, it is a very small poker room with only a handful of tables.
Surprisingly, no one working there seemed to know what the poker comp rate was. Another problem was not only no side tables to hold drinks and snacks, but no cup holders. As a result, players were continually spilling their drinks.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casino rewards programs
During opening weekend, there were very long lines to sign up for player’s cards at both casinos, but the lines at Ocean Resort Casino were ridiculously long.
Prior to the June 28 opening, it was possible to apply for a Hard Rock player’s card either at the Hard Rock Center in the Tanger Outlets or online, which undoubtedly helped reduce the overflow crowds applying at the casino. But at Ocean Resort Casino, people were waiting in line for two hours or more.
In the poker room, an executive took players’ ID’s in lieu of having them wait on line, but the wait for the card was no shorter. Players complained because they needed to leave but had to wait to get their driver’s license back. I think the casino should have anticipated the huge number of people wanting player’s cards and could have planned for it better. First impressions count.
Upgraded tier offers
I am happy to report that the lines to get player’s cards at both casinos are now much shorter. In addition, both casinos are offering attractive incentives to encourage new sign-ups, especially for holders of higher level player’s cards at other casinos.
Hard Rock Casino
For a limited time only, new players with a higher level card from another casino (not including Ocean Resort Casino) will qualify immediately for an upgraded tier at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Qualifying players will receive either an Elite or Rock Royalty Wild Card membership along with $50 or $150 respectively in free play and a complimentary hotel room for one or two nights, respectively. A complimentary dining offer and two complimentary tickets to Howie Mandel’s Comedy Club are included as well.
The offer is valid through Sept. 3, 2018. For additional information and terms and conditions, visit the Hard Rock Atlantic City website.
Ocean Resort Casino
The Ocean Premier loyalty program at Ocean Resort Casino includes four tiers: Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Black. Through Sept. 30, 2018, the casino will match the tier level of any other Atlantic City casino (except Hard Rock).
And as an added perk, all players who present another Atlantic City casino card on sign up will receive the following free play based on their starting Ocean Resort Casino tier level:
- Blue: $15
- Gold: $25
- Platinum: $50
- Black: $100
Players upgraded to Platinum or Black card status will also receive a complimentary room at the resort. The room offer, which is also good through Sept. 30, is for one night for Platinum tier cardholders and for two nights for Black tier cardholders.
Additional information about the Ocean Resort Casino player’s rewards program can be found on the casino website.
Ocean Resort Casino rewards program for sports bettors
Ocean Resort Casino also offers a Sports Rewards Club whereby frequent sports bettors can be rewarded for their action. The sports rewards program is separate from the program described above for other casino play.
Sports bettors who sign up for the Sports Rewards Club earn sports points based on both type of wager and amount, as indicated below.
- Straight Bet: 1 Sports Point for for each $1 wagered
- Parlay/Teaser: 2 Sports Points for each $1 wagered
- Parlay Card: 5 Sports Points for each $1 wagered
As long as at least one point is earned in a given 12-month period, the points don’t expire. However, you will need to do a substantial amount of wagering before any benefits are forthcoming. You will receive $1 in free bets for every 1,000 Sports Points.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casino restaurants
Obviously, if you spend any considerable amount of time at either casino, after a while you will be hungry. The good news is that both casinos offer a wide variety of restaurant options catering to every taste and budget. So basically the decision comes down to what kind of food you’re in the mood for, how much time you have, and the maximum amount you wish to spend.
Here are a few suggestions (my top picks) for both casual and fine dining at each casino. To avoid disappointment and possible long wait times, be sure to make reservations at any of the fine dining restaurants. Advance reservations are also strongly advised for the Hard Rock Café, especially when there is a scheduled performer.
- Hard Rock Café: If possible, eat at a time when there will be a performer on stage. The entertainment is free so you are getting great bang for your buck.
- YouYu: More than just a noodle bar, this place also serves up Asian street food. Its extended hours from 11 a.m. to 2 am. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday make it ideal for anyone hungry in the off hours or late at night.
- Sugar Factory: This restaurant wasn’t open yet on day 1, but it is now. If you wish, you can have a whole meal there but, like the name, implies, the real reason to go is for the decadent ice cream desserts. This is a great place to take the whole family, but especially kids and all those who are still kids at heart. Everything is super-sized and designed for sharing.
- Harvest Buffet: For big appetites on a small budget, nothing can beat a buffet, and the Harvest Buffet at Hard Rock is open for lunch and dinner daily.
- Il Mulino: This hold-over from the Trump Taj Mahal is one of the best Italian restaurants in town.
- Robert’s Steak House: Sometimes the one item you’re craving more than anything else is a perfectly prepared steak. If that is the case, I suggest Robert’s Steak House, another fine hold-over from the Trump Taj Mahal,
- Council Oak Fish: This is similar to the Council Oak restaurants at other Hard Rock properties, but more seafood focused. A panoramic ocean view and live music nightly add to the appeal.
- Kuro: If you have an adventurous palate and would like to try something different, this upscale contemporary Japanese restaurant is a good choice. Kuro offers a wide selection of handcrafted cocktails, a perfect complement to the boldly flavored food.
Ocean Resort Casino
- Sky Café: Summer will be over before you know it. So now while you still have a chance, don’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner here on the pool deck or overlooking the ocean. Or stop by later (up to 11 p.m. weekdays and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday) for drinks and snacks at the bar.
- Villain & Saint: The menu is as creative as the name of this restaurant. So if you’re looking for familiar favorites served with a new twist, look no further — especially if you also like rock ‘n’ roll.
- Zen Bang Noodle & Sushi: Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine are all represented, so take your pick. Then watch the chef at work preparing your order in the open kitchen.
- Café 500: I stopped by this restaurant on opening day, but walked away when I asked to see the menu and was told none was available. Hopefully, this 24-hour eatery now has its act together because every casino hotel can benefit from a good 24-hour coffee shop.
Once the eagerly awaited Wahlburgers restaurant also opens, that will be another welcome addition to include in this list.
- Harper’s: Let’s begin with a suggestion for those who want a leisurely and memorable meal earlier rather than later. Every Atlantic City casino should offer a viable place to have brunch, but only a few do. Harper’s at Ocean ResortCasino is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily and serves hearty enough fare to satisfy you until dinner.
- Amada: This Chef Garces owned restaurant specializing in shareable Spanish tapas is similar to the Amada in Old City, Philadelphia. Whether you and your companion are seeking an intimate table for two or you will be joined by a small group, the experience should be thoroughly enjoyable.
- American Cut: On the other hand, if you prefer to stick to food you know and love and you’re hungry enough to polish off a generous serving of steak, look no further than the steakhouse aptly named American Cut.
- Dolce Mare: When a restaurant not only offers a large varied menu, like this one does, specializing in both Italian cuisine and seafood, but also a magnificent ocean view, how could you possibly go wrong?
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casino entertainment
Last but certainly not least, apart from playing your favorite games in the casino, one of the main reasons for going is the entertainment. However, comparing the two newest Atlantic City casino hotels — Hard Rock and Ocean Resort Casino — in that regard, there is no comparison.
Hard Rock Casino
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino promised from the outset no less than 300 live entertainment acts in its first year, and so far, it seems to be delivering on its promise. You will have to pay top prices for some of the major acts booked for the Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena, but in return, you will be treated to a night of spectacular superstar entertainment.
But if attending one of those concerts is not in your budget, no worries. Not just on weekends, but every night of the week, there’s other live entertainment to choose from that’s either very nominally priced or free. And despite the name Hard Rock, this is the place to go to enjoy not just rock ‘n’ roll, but any genre of music, including pop, country, R&B, Latino, and more. Howie Mandel’s Comedy Club and Daer Nightclub are other options.
In other words, there is something for everyone. Visit the Hard Rock AC website to check ahead of time for various entertainment options.
Ocean Resort Casino
HQ2 Nightclub featuring renowned DJs is open Friday through Sunday from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., and Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub is open late Thursday-Saturday.
In addition, boxing matches are scheduled from time to time, the Top Golf Swing Suite and Exhale Spa are open daily, and the HQ2 Beach Club is open Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. seasonally.
The resort has only one concert venue, Ovation Hall (the same venue used for the boxing matches), and only a few concerts are slated to take place there anytime soon. These include Wanda Sykes (Sept. 8), Wayne Brady (Nov. 10), and RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles (Nov. 17).
You can find the most up-to-date list of acts at the Ocean Resort Casino website.
Which casino would you pick?
Summing up all of the above, the two casinos seem evenly matched with regard to both slot and table game choice and variety of dining options.
However, Hard Rock is drawing bigger crowds, which means if you want to eat at one of their better restaurants, even on weekdays, you should reserve well in advance. Otherwise, there is a good chance you won’t get a table at the restaurant of your choice at the time you want to go.
Reservations are also recommended for the Hard Rock Cafe, and speaking of the food at this place and other Hard Rock Atlantic City casual restaurants, I would have liked to see a little more restraint in the menus. For example, virtually every item at the Hard Rock Cafe has over 1,000 calories, and you can probably double that number for many main dishes, drinks, and desserts at the Sugar Factory. At least one casual restaurant at this casino needs to offer healthier, lower calorie choices.
Otherwise, the casino that’s the better fit for you depends on personal preferences. If betting on sports is important to you, Ocean Resort Casino is the only one of the two currently offering this option.
However, if live entertainment is high on your list of how you want to spend your time when not gambling in the casino, Hard Rock AC is your best bet by far. Both casinos offer outstanding nightclub entertainment, but otherwise, it’s slim pickings entertainment-wise at Ocean Resort Casino compared to Hard Rock.
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.
All of you who have been patiently waiting for a whole year for Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to finally open in Atlantic City now have a date to circle on your calendar. In just a few short weeks, it will be time to get out the drum rolls. The grand opening of Hard Rock AC will take place on Thursday, June 28.
June 28 opening “set in stone”
Unlike the property that former owner Glenn Straub renamed TEN that never materialized, attendees at the April 18 press conference announcing the Hard Rock Atlantic City opening, were reassured it will happen on schedule. In Jim Allen’s words, the June 28 opening for Hard Rock AC is “set in stone.” Allen is the CEO of Hard Rock International.
Meanwhile, with the goal of making that promise a reality, as the red letter day looms closer and closer, construction crews on site are busily attending to every last detail. On any given day, close to 700 employees can be found hard at work doing their part to make sure Hard Rock Atlantic City will be fully ready to open on June 28.
About Hard Rock International
Ever since Hard Rock’s purchase of the former Trump Taj Mahal became official, the excitement about all the positive things the new facility would do for Atlantic City has been through the roof.
The optimistic mood is understandable. If any company has the wherewithal to keep the current momentum going and bring new life and energy to Atlantic City for years to come, it is Hard Rock. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, owner of the international Hard Rock conglomerate, already has Hard Rock facilities up and running in 75 countries. According to Allen, the company boasts approximately $6 billion in annual revenue, employs more than 30,000 people, and schedules more than 35,000 musical acts.
In addition, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the NFL in 2020, Hard Rock Stadium (home of the Miami Dolphins) will host the 2020 Super Bowl.
Its $500 million investment in Hard Rock AC
So it is no surprise that the company has invested $500 million, not just to renovate the former Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, but completely transform the 4 million square foot property inside and out, from top to bottom.
Hard Rock AC will be so different from the hotel and casino that preceded it, millennials who are new to gambling will have nothing to go on but other people’s word that the other hotel-casino even existed. Images of what Trump with typical immodesty called the “eighth wonder of the world” will be virtually nonexistent except in the distant memories of those who were actually around for the rise and fall of the $1.2 billion behemoth.
What to expect at Hard Rock Atlantic City
Since the Trump Taj Mahal’s October 2016 closure, with the exception of Bally’s Wild Wild West Casino, the only clear indication which Atlantic City casino you are at is the name in big neon lights, not any unique, instantly recognizable theme. However, all that is going to change dramatically with Hard Rock Atlantic City.
All of the old minarets and other Asian touches are gone. And in their place, an 80-foot guitar hangs from the façade of the building. Music memorabilia will be present throughout the inside of the property as well, and guests will even have the option to have a guitar in their room for the duration of their stay.
Accommodations at the resort will include 2,000 guest rooms and suites, every one of which has been completely renovated, as has the casino floor and entertainment venues.
No one will go hungry or thirsty either, with more than 20 restaurants and bars on the premises. The Hard Rock Café will be among them, of course, but it will be relocated in a larger space seating 400, with a better stage and easy access from both the casino and the beach. Otherwise, with a few exceptions, like the Chinese fine dining establishment, Dynasty, which is also being redone, virtually all of the restaurants will be brand new.
Hard Rock games
The 120,000-square-foot casino floor will offer 2,100 slot machines and 120 table games.
There will not be a separate poker room and there are currently no plans in the works to open one. However, if player demand is sufficient, I would not rule it out as a possibility at some point down the road.
Wild Card Rewards program
All of the currently operating Atlantic City casinos have a player’s rewards program, and so will Hard Rock AC. The program is called Wild Card Rewards.
Since Hard Rock Atlantic City is launching its own rewards program, everyone interested in receiving applicable special offers and discounts, as well as comps and other perks, needs to sign up for a new card. This applies even if you already have a Hard Rock player’s card from another Hard Rock casino.
If you don’t want to wait until the new casino opens to obtain your card, you can apply for one now by doing either of the following:
- Visit the Hard Rock Preview Center at the Tangers Outlet, located at 101 N. Michigan Avenue and sign up in person.
- Apply online on the Hard Rock Atlantic City website. You will receive a confirmation of your enrollment via email.
If you apply now, your new card will arrive in the mail in time for the grand opening. However, as soon as possible, a visit to the rewards center at the casino is highly recommended. That’s where you will get definitive answers to any questions you may have about how the program works, including credit for your Atlantic City play when visiting other Hard Rock properties and vice versa.
Enter to win a 2018 Tesla
By the way, Hard Rock AC is holding a sweepstakes where it will be giving away a 2018 Tesla, among other prizes, and all Wild Card holders receive 1 free entry just for joining. You can earn additional entries based on play. The drawing will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1. Winners must be present to be eligible.
Hard Rock AC entertainment
We’ve saved what might be the best news of all for last, and that’s the fantastic entertainment that awaits you at Hard Rock Atlantic City.
Those of you who frequented the Trump Taj Mahal will remember its two entertainment venues: the Etess Arena and the Xanadu. Both rooms have undergone a major renovation and enhancement, including a brand new state-of-the-art acoustics system. The Etess Arena has been renamed Hard Rock at the Etess Arena and can seat 7,000. The other venue, which was seldom used at the Taj, will seat 2,000 patrons and will hold concerts much more frequently.
Additional concerts will take place in the expanded Hard Rock Café and, weather permitting, on the beach.
Not just rock N’ roll but every music genre and comedy, too
Allen promised live entertainment from more than 100 acts on nearly 300 nights at Hard Rock AC in its first year, including more than 60 acts already booked for the summer. The illustrious summer lineup includes such diverse acts as:
- Third Eye Blind
- Florida Georgia Line
- Rascal Flatts
- Frankie Valli
- Stone Temple Pilots
- Blake Shelton
- Counting Crows
- Toby Keith
- Kid Rock
In other words, the entertainers include not just musicians in the rock genre, but all music genres, including pop, country music, and more. Some of your favorite comedians like Steve Byrne (opening night), Amy Schumer, and Howie Mandel are coming to Hard Rock AC, too. Mandel will even have his own Comedy Club on site. You can find the full summer entertainment lineup here. Advance tickets for the shows of your choice can be ordered online through Ticketmaster.
Entertainment every day of the week
The norm at Atlantic City casino hotels has been virtually no live entertainment except on weekends. Hard Rock is taking an entirely different approach. Visitors will be able to enjoy what management is describing as a “true entertainment destination” where live acts will be performing not just on weekends but every day.
“We are about entertainment and not just about [a] casino,” Allen said.
Hard Rock AC is a “game changer”
Now that all the hype about what Hard Rock AC is going to do for this town has gone beyond promises to a firm opening date, the sentiment all around town is we can’t wait. We’re hearing it not just from the people running the show, but from everyone in town — from the mayor and other city leaders to the equally dedicated construction workers without whose hard work this ambitious project wouldn’t be coming to fruition.
Joe Jingoli, lead developer and property partner, believes that “the Hard Rock AC is going to be amazing.”
Meanwhile, a 28-year-old plasterer named Devon Harris beams with pride at the thought that “one day I will be able to walk by and say I helped built this.”
Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam says the presence of the internationally recognized Hard Rock brand will be a “game changer” for this town that will be “phenomenal.”
From humble beginnings as a single UK restaurant to a massive second act as a major casino, hotel, restaurant, and entertainment company, Hard Rock has emerged as one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
It appears to have been on a collision course with the Atlantic City casino industry for years, and in the summer of 2018, the two will finally come together with the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, aka Hard Rock Atlantic City.
Here’s a look at the key dates and important facts that led to Hard Rock International buying the defunct Trump Taj Mahal in 2017 and turning it into Hard Rock Atlantic City:
June 14, 1971
The first Hard Rock Cafe opens at Gloucester House, Piccadilly, London, the United Kingdom under the ownership of Americans Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett. The brand ultimately expands. Under the leadership of British company Mecca Leisure Group, it becomes a chain including 11 restaurant locations around the world by 1990.
Resorts International begins construction on the $250 million Taj Mahal casino and hotel on property adjacent to its Resorts Casino Hotel.
Resorts International head James Crosby dies. The company becomes a takeover target, and Taj Mahal construction problems arise.
Donald Trump, owner of two other Atlantic City casinos at the time, buys a controlling stake in Resorts International for $79 million. Trump is appointed the chairman of Resorts International. He immediately announces a plan to complete the Taj Mahal in one year. The plan also includes shutting down the casino at Resorts Casino Hotel to avoid complications with casino ownership laws in the state.
The Taj Mahal budget balloons to more than $930 million and Trump struggles to raise the $550 million needed to complete the project. With the company on the brink of bankruptcy, Trump tenders an offer to buy all outstanding stock for $22 a share and personally finance the construction of the Taj Mahal. Television producer Merv Griffin makes a competing offer of $35 a share. Trump and Griffin take the battle for ownership of Resorts International to the courts.
A settlement is reached between Trump and Griffin. Griffin gets Resorts International. Trump buys the Taj Mahal from the company for $273 million.
April 2, 1990
Trump opens the $1.2 billion Trump Taj Mahal after raising the $675 million needed to finance the completion of the project primarily through junk bonds. The 120,000-square-foot casino is said to be the largest in the world. Trump calls it “the eighth wonder of the world.”
Sept. 7, 1990
The first-ever Hard Rock Hotel and Casino opens near the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. It is a joint venture between Harveys Lake Tahoe and Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton.
Gaming, hospitality, and entertainment company Rank Group of Britain acquire Mecca Leisure Group and its chain of Hard Rock Cafes for $819 million. Under Rank, Hard Rock ultimately expands to include 124 restaurants, seven hotels, two casinos and two concert venues by the end of 2006.
Just 15 months after opening, the Trump Taj Mahal files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Ownership of Trump’s Atlantic City casino empire is consolidated into a publicly traded company called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.
Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the name is ultimately changed to Trump Entertainment Resorts.
March 11, 2004
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opens in Tampa, Fla. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates the hotel and casino using the Hard Rock name and branding under a licensing agreement with Hard Rock Cafe International.
May 11, 2004
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opens in Hollywood, Fla., on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hollywood Reservation. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates the hotel and casino using the Hard Rock name and branding under a licensing agreement with Hard Rock Cafe International.
May 11, 2006
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas and the right to use the Hard Rock name for hotels and casinos in the Western United States and other territories are purchased by the Morgans Hotel Group for $770 million. Hard Rock International has no ownership stake in the Las Vegas hotel and casino.
Dec. 7, 2006
The Seminole Tribe of Florida announces it has acquired Hard Rock International, including all its restaurants, hotels and casinos, from the Rank Group of Britain for $965 million. At the time, Hard Rock was said to consist of 124 restaurants in 45 countries, seven hotels, two casinos, and two concert venues. The company is also said to own the world’s largest collection of rock memorabilia.
Trump Entertainment Resorts files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and Trump resigns as chairman, retaining a 10 percent stake in the company while the casinos keep the Trump name.
Hard Rock International announces plans to build a $460 million boutique hotel and casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
The NJ Senate approves smaller boutique casino legislation allowing proposed projects with less than 500 rooms to move forward. This opens up Atlantic City to the proposed new Hard Rock casino and hotel project.
Brookfield Asset Management takes ownership of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas. Warner Gaming takes over operations.
Hard Rock International President and CEO Jim Allen says construction on Hard Rock’s Boardwalk project will begin in July 2012. It will open in the spring of 2014.
Hard Rock fails to pay a $1 million casino license application fee, apparently dropping the $460 million boutique hotel and casino plan due to poor economic conditions in Atlantic City.
April 23, 2013
Hard Rock International signs a long-term agreement with Meadowlands Racetrack LLC becoming an investor in the North New Jersey racetrack, banking on the idea a casino will be coming there one day.
Trump is fully divested by the time Trump Entertainment Resorts files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection again. Billionaire financier Carl Icahn strikes a deal to take ownership of Trump Taj Mahal.
State documents show Hard Rock International is interested in the shuttered Revel hotel and casino in Atlantic City.
Hard Rock International receives a statement of compliance from the Casino Control Commission, an early step in applying for a casino license to operate in Atlantic City.
Hard Rock International reveals plans to build a $1 billion, 650,000-square-foot casino. It will house 200 table games and 5,000 slot machines adjacent to the Meadowlands Racetrack. The project is pending approval from the state.
July 1, 2016
Close to a thousand Trump Taj Mahal cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, and servers represented by Unite Here Local 54 go on strike. Union and management fail to come to an agreement on wage and benefit provisions. These include health care and pension benefits originally taken away from workers in bankruptcy court.
Oct. 10, 2016
The Trump Taj Mahal closes amid a strike by some 1,000 unionized workers. Icahn said he’d lost $350 million over his time in ownership. He admitted he couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding and come to an agreement with the union.
New Jersey voters say no to expanding casino gaming outside Atlantic City, killing the Hard Rock-Meadowlands Racetrack casino plan.
March 1, 2017
Hard Rock International announces it has purchased the closed Trump Taj Mahal hotel and casino and plans to spend $300 million renovating, re-branding, and reopening the property as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Memorial Day weekend 2018.
Hard Rock International and National Content Liquidators host a liquidation sale. They get rid of the last remnants of the Trump Taj Mahal, including furniture and gaming equipment.
After publicly admitting the cost of the Hard Rock Atlantic City renovation and re-branding had ballooned to more than $500 million, Hard Rock International puts up a new billboard revealing it is now targeting the summer of 2018 for reopening. Summer officially begins in Atlantic City on June 21. Memorial Day 2018 is May 28.
Hard Rock International files plans with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to open a gas station at the corner of Pacific and Virginia avenues just outside the Hard Rock Atlantic City property. The proposed Rockstop Gas & Wash will include a convenience store, gas pumps, and a car wash.
Unite Here Local 54 and Hard Rock International sign an agreement that could see the union return to the property. The union and hotel management execute a neutrality card check agreement. It allows the union to be recognized as the official bargaining agent for employees. But only if a majority sign a union membership card.
Feb. 23, 2018
Hard Rock International submits its plans for its casino signage to the CRDA. It includes a massive Les Paul Gibson guitar with the Hard Rock name written on the body. It is a clear signal the redevelopment is nearing completion and the final touches are going forward.
A public records request for documents related to Hard Rock International’s recent acquisition of the Taj Mahal gives a sneak peek at future plans the Atlantic City casino.
Wayne Parry, an Associated Press reporter quite familiar with Atlantic City, wrote about the results of the records request, which amounted to a letter Hard Rock boss Jim Allen filed with the Division of Gaming Enforcement. That letter is a list of requests: features Hard Rock would like to include in its new hotel.
Here’s an excerpt from the AP article:
“A wish list the company submitted to New Jersey gambling regulators was obtained by The Associated Press. The partially blacked-out copy offers the first look at proposals the Florida-based company has for the shuttered Atlantic City casino that now-President Donald Trump built.”
Interesting nuances to the forthcoming New Jersey casino
While the details of Hard Rock’s plans are pretty sparse, Allen’s letter gives at least a partial picture of what the new hotel and New Jersey casino could look like.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the new casino may be its hidden VIP gambling rooms.
“We would like to ability to create private (VIP) gaming spaces that are not visible to the general public,” Allen’s letter reads. “We would like the ability to have these spaces on the casino floor.”
The letter includes requests, but that doesn’t mean the DGE will accept ideas or shoot them down. However, considering the pace at which Atlantic City is rebounding from its dismal financial past, the more new features and unique nuances, the better.
Daily fantasy sports
The Allen letter also includes a request for daily fantasy sports at the casino. This is an interesting twist; DFS is not currently available in New Jersey.
There’s also an indication Hard Rock plans to introduce slot machines that never before seen in New Jersey. We assume these machines will be some variation on video game gambling machines already in use at Tropicana.
More than eight months ago, the union UNITE HERE! Local 54 announced workers at the Trump Taj Mahal would strike over a lack of benefits.
Union President Bob McDevitt told the Press of Atlantic City he’s in talks with the Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen and investor Joe Jingoli.
Allen told the Press of AC the hotel group is “looking forward to working with Local 54.”
Local 54’s long journey to the Hard Rock
In the summer of 2016, Local 54 announced its workers would go on strike if five of the city’s eight casinos didn’t agree to the union’s demands for, among other things, adequate health care coverage for its members.
Four of the casinos were able to reach an agreement, but Taj owner Carl Icahn was the only holdout.
Icahn and Local 54 had been bitter enemies for the most part since the Taj declared bankruptcy in 2014. As part of the property’s restructuring, health care and other benefits were either reduced or eliminated.
While workers voiced their opposition to the health care crisis, Icahn pointed out in a 2015 open letter that the union’s health care plan had earned them $140 million.
He went on to compare the union’s strike tactics to old-time, brick-throwing thugs.
Union 54 went on strike
That bad blood fueled stubbornness on both sides, as the Taj was the only casino that chose not to reach an agreement with the union to avoid a long-term strike.
Local 54’s strike gained national attention and became a huge distraction, cutting into the Taj’s business.
If the union’s goal was to make Icahn pay for his belligerence, it worked. On Oct. 10, 2016, the Taj closed its doors for what would be the final chapter in its up-and-down lifespan.[i15-table tableid=4306]
Union leaders saw Hard Rock acquisition as a positive step
As it became apparent Icahn was looking for a buyer, McDevitt released a statement indicating he felt new ownership would give his workers a new chance at “quality jobs, not hollowed out ones that don’t allow families to live middle class lives,” the union posted on its Facebook page.
McDevitt went on to say jobs were always a part of Atlantic City’s vision for casino gaming and that the old Taj property is a reminder of the union’s commitment.
“Our members sacrificed much at this property, but we never wavered in our core belief that workers deserve a good quality job, not simply any job,” McDevitt said.