ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – When four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos shut down in 2014 and a fifth followed two years later, it seemed to many that the city’s gambling industry was in an irreversible death spiral.
But things have been looking up since then for Atlantic City, due in no small part to the fact that there is now less competition.
On Thursday, two of those five casinos will reopen under new owners and new names.
The former Trump Taj Mahal will reopen as the Hard Rock, and the former Revel will reopen as the Ocean Resort Casino. Some things to know about them:
BACKGROUND: The former Trump Taj Mahal shut down Oct. 10, 2016. It was bought by Hard Rock International, owned by Florida’s Seminole Indian tribe, for $50 million in March 2017. Between the purchase price and renovations, Hard Rock plans to spend at least $500 million on the casino, which President Donald Trump, who was a real estate magnate at the time, opened in 1990 at a cost of $1.2 billion. It has 2,000 hotel rooms.
WHAT’S NEW? Just about everything. Hard Rock stripped the property to its foundation, eliminating the Indian-themed domes and minarets of the Taj Mahal era, and redid the property inside and out. Instead of purple and pink palaces, guests will see a giant electric guitar as they drive up.
WHAT’S RETURNING: The Scores gentlemen’s club and Robert’s Steakhouse, among others. The Mark G. Etess Arena remains, though it has been expanded to hold 7,700 spectators, up from about 5,200.
QUIRKY STUFF: Hard Rock is serious about its music theme; hotel guests can check out Fender Stratocaster electric guitars to play in their rooms. (How that might go over with your neighbours remains to be seen.) Its “365 Live” program promises live entertainment every day of the year for its first year.
OWNERSHIP: Trump opened the property in 1990, calling it “the eighth wonder of the world.” Little over a year later, it was in the first of numerous bankruptcies, choking on high debt levels. Trump lost control of his casino company in a subsequent bankruptcy when bond holders took over. It was later purchased out of bankruptcy court by fellow billionaire Carl Icahn, who closed it in 2016 after a bitter strike over health care coverage and pension benefits for unionized workers.
OPENING DAY: Hard Rock plans a mass guitar-smashing ceremony on the Boardwalk at 11 a.m.
OCEAN RESORT CASINO
BACKGROUND: Ocean Resort is the second incarnation of Revel, the $2.4 billion pleasure palace at the northern end of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. It opened in April 2012, intended to be a game-changer for the market by focusing on upscale entertainment — and upscale customers. But they never materialized in sufficient numbers, and the casino went bankrupt twice and shut down on Sept. 2, 2014, after little more than two years of operation, making it Atlantic City’s most spectacular casino flop. Colorado developer Bruce Deifik bought it in January and set about reopening it under a new name intended to emphasize its proximity to and embrace of the ocean. It has 1,399 rooms.
WHAT’S NEW: The once-meandering casino floor has been reconfigured to make it easier to get around, and new carpeting covers the casino floor and hotel rooms. A hamburger restaurant owned by actor Mark Wahlberg and his family is coming. New attractions will include a virtual golf simulator, a giant fish tank and a sports betting facility. Ocean Resort has affiliated with the Hyatt hotel chain. But because the property was still virtually new when it closed, not a lot needed to be changed.
WHAT’S RETURNING: Popular attractions like the HQ pool club, and Royal Jelly burlesque club will be back, along with a spa and some Jose Garces eateries. Ovation Hall, its 5,500-seat concert hall, is back, too.
QUIRKY STUFF: Cereal Town, an eatery that serves cereal 24 hours a day, will be part of the lineup. Wahlberg brought a Roman Catholic priest to bless the reopening casino a few weeks before it reopened.
OWNERSHIP: Revel was conceived by Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley with local investment partners Revel Entertainment, led by Kevin DeSanctis, a casino executive and former New Jersey state trooper. But it ran out of money halfway through construction, setting off a scramble for funds to finish the project. New borrowing only increased the sky-high debt the casino had, and it never came close to turning a profit. Following its 2014 closure, Florida developer Glenn Straub bought Revel for $82 million from bankruptcy court, but failed to reopen it in three years. He sold to Deifik in January for $200 million.
OPENING DAY: Ocean Resort plans a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m., shortly after Hard Rock’s debut.
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