ATLANTIC CITY — After toughing out five devastating casino closures since 2014, Atlantic City now has a date for the start of its new era: June 28, when Hard Rock Atlantic City will open in the totally redone former Trump Taj Mahal on the Boardwalk.
The $1.8 billion Taj Mahal, which now-President Trump opened on April 2, 1990, has been thoroughly de-Trumped and de-minareted, Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen told reporters in New York, in remarks that were transmitted in a glitchy live stream to Atlantic City. Plagued by bankruptcies, the Trump Taj Mahal was finally shut down by billionaire owner Carl Icahn during a protracted labor dispute in October 2016.
Soon to come, the giant guitars of the Hard Rock brand and an already-booked-up music lineup, including Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, and Counting Crows, and a Howie Mandel comedy club, with tickets going on sale Friday.
Allen promised upscale finishes, stone walkways, and amenities for all segments of the market, including the international gambler.
“One thing I can promise is no minarets,” he said.
But Allen promised more: that the company and his partners were “100 percent convinced” that the Atlantic City gaming market, which tumbled by the billions and sank the city nearly into bankruptcy, had rebounded and would continue to rebound.
He said he and his partners, local builders Joe Jingoli and Jack Morris, had now put more than $500 million into the project, but, unlike the heavily leveraged Taj Mahal, carried no debt.
“We truly are committed to creating a world-class project,” Allen said.
No announcements were made on restaurants, except that one popular one from the Taj Mahal days, Dynasty, would remain. Rooms have been gutted and redesigned, as have two music venues, the now 7,000-seat Hard Rock Live at the Etess Arena and a smaller, 2,000-seat venue.
Allen said the casino will employ 3,000 people.
Its arrival heralds a dramatic shift in the declining narrative of the beloved seaside resort. The old Revel casino hotel, also at the northern end of the Boardwalk, is looking at a summer opening as well, under the name Ocean Resort Casino and to be operated by Hyatt. No opening date has been announced.
“It’s a great day for Atlantic City and for the people of AC and the surrounding area to get the jobs we lost back,” said City Council President Marty Small Sr. “The confidence in Atlantic City is sky high, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Hard Rock’s Allen said the company’s investment-grade ratings meant it could be patient in growing the market. “We can weather any storm,” he said. “We are extremely confident it will create the curiosity to come to Atlantic City.”
“When you think about what’s happened to the local real estate market, unemployment, all those things moving in the right direction,” Allen said, noting that Atlantic City’s gaming market grew 22 percent last year and is still the second largest in the country at $2.7 billion.
“No one’s talking about Atlantic City going bankrupt anymore,” he said. “The question was, can Atlantic City take the next step? We were 100 percent convinced that it can.”
Attending the Atlantic City event, which took place in a preview center blocks from the actual site of the Hard Rock, were Miss America Cara Mund, several executives of the new casino, and Isabel Allen, the wife of Jim Allen. “Atlantic City’s going to rock and roll,” she promised.