Posts Tagged ‘City’

Hard Rock Atlantic City to Open June 28th

 Hard Rock Atlantic City to Open June 28th

In a press conference Wednesday, Hard Rock International executives announced that the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will open June 28th. Among the highlights the first year are almost 300 nights of live entertainment, including the likes of Blake Shelton, Amy Schumer, Stone Temple Pilots, Counting Crows, Florida Georgia Line, Steely Dan, and Frankie Valli.

“We think it’s a great start,” Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen said. “It demonstrates our commitment that we are about entertainment and not just about casino. But, certainly, we look forward to continuing to book more acts and even larger acts. There’s some amazing acts on that list, but, certainly, I think the best is yet to come.”

While I referred to the Hard Rock Atlantic City as “new,” it is actually the former Trump Taj Mahal, situated on the Boardwalk between Virginia and Maryland Avenues. Hard Rock International purchased the shuttered property, finalizing the sale about a year ago. The company is investing $ 500 million to get it refurbished, rebranded, and ready to go this summer. And yes, the iconic giant guitar will be prominently featured out front, though it has not been erected yet (permits, which have been procured, were needed before it could be done).

The Hard Rock will be a welcome sight to Atlantic City, which saw five casinos close from 2014 to 2016. 2014, in particular, was a disaster for the city, as Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Showboat Casino, the $ 2.4 billion Revel, and Trump Plaza, all shut their doors. The Trump Taj Mahal closed on October 10th, 2016.

Of course, with all those casino closing went thousands of jobs.

“They’re going to hire 3,000 people, which we need. We lost about 11,000 in 2014, so this means more jobs for Atlantic City,” New Jersey Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo told News 12 New Jersey.

“You’re talking about over 5,000 full-time jobs,” added Matt Doherty with the Casino Reinvestment Authority. “These are union jobs with pension, health insurance for pay. Then there’s probably another 2,000 seasonal jobs for the summer as well.”

The Hard Rock Atlantic City will have 2,000 hotel rooms, more than 20 restaurants and bars, and a 120,000 square foot casino floor with 2,100 slot machines and 120 table games. The Taj was once the hub for poker on the east coast and was prominently featured in the classic poker film Rounders. It was even home to the live finals of the long-forgotten Online Series of Poker, created by the original owner of this website and which I, personally, was involved in organizing. It remains to be seen if Hard Rock will make an effort to attract poker players.

Hard Rock does already have plans to offer online gambling, which is legal in New Jersey. In February, it entered into a five-year agreement with Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) to be Hard Rock’s online gambling provider.

This will be a big summer for Atlantic City. In addition to the Hard Rock, Ocean Resort Casino, formerly Revel, will also open. No date has been announced for the Ocean grand opening.

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Hard Rock Atlantic City to Use GiG Platform for Online Gambling Offering

 Hard Rock Atlantic City to Use GiG Platform for Online Gambling Offering

On Monday, Malta-based Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) announced that it has entered into a five-yar agreement with Hard Rock International to be the company’s online gambling provider for its Hard Rock Atlantic City property, set to open this summer. The two companies had signed a Letter of Intent in late October, though at the time, GiG did not make it public that its partner was, in fact, Hard Rock International.

Gaming Innovation Group was founded in 2008 and has offices in six cities: Malta, Marbella, Gibraltar, Oslo, Kristiansand, and Copenhagen. It owns seven business-to-consumer online gambling and sports betting brands, focusing on European markets. That is, until now. The venture with Hard Rock will be GiG’s first foray into the young United States regulated online gambling market.

GiG explained what it will provide in Monday’s press release:

The agreement will see GiG furnish Hard Rock with a state of the art digital consumer portal, as well as the back-end platform to manage their operations. GiG has communicated ambitions to expand its platform services, focusing on larger clients by utilizing platform scalability. The agreement is a breakthrough for GiG’s platform services as it marks the first agreement with a major global brand and land based casino chain. GiG will also supply Hard Rock with its new front-end casino service, GiG Magic.

“We are excited to be part of Hard Rock’s inspiring and innovative plans,” said Robin Reed, CEO of GiG. “This agreement confirms the attractiveness of the GiG platform and the ability to support major operators in the industry. By adding a New Jersey license, we will move into our third regulated market, positioning GiG towards an important and growing iGaming market.”

Added SPV of Online Gaming at Hard Rock, Kresimir Spajic, “Hard Rock has an ambitious plan to become a global leader in the international online gaming space. We are confident that, together with GiG, we can disrupt the market, through product innovation and unique user experience.”

Hard Rock Atlantic City is the former Trump Taj Mahal, which closed in October 2016. Things were a mess leading up to the closure (aren’t they usually?) as Carl Icahn, the largest debtholder of Trump Entertainment Resorts took control of the casino when the company came out of bankruptcy in February 2016. In the months that followed, he refused to invest $ 100 million into the casino that he promised, holding out for tax breaks from Atlantic City and New Jersey. He got concessions from the Unite Here Local 54 union, causing its members to lose pension and health benefits, but when the union later tried to negotiate to get their benefits back, Icahn wouldn’t budge. The workers went on strike and the Taj eventually closed, Icahn blaming the union.

Hard Rock International acquired the Trump Taj Mahal in late March 2017. It has plowed $ 500 million into the property, converting it to its Hard Rock brand and plans to re-open this summer. The online gambling products are expected to also launch this year, though GiG did not specify if this would happen when the casino opens its doors.

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Long Dormant Revel Casino in Atlantic City Sold

 Long Dormant Revel Casino in Atlantic City Sold

Atlantic City’s Revel Casino, which has been closed since September 2014, has been sold. Bruce Deifik, the founder of Integrated Properties in Denver, confirmed Monday that he purchased the ill-conceived property for $ 200 million through his business AC OCEAN WALK from Florida developer Glenn Straub.

The Revel was designed to be a luxury casino property to rival the Borgata. It cost a staggering $ 2.4 billion to build and opened in April 2012. It never made a profit and closed about two and a half years later, the third of four Atlantic City casinos to shutter its doors that year.

The casino was a failure from the start, as financial problems caused construction to be halted more than once. It bled money from the moment it opened, couldn’t pay its property taxes, couldn’t pay contractors, couldn’t repay loans, and went into bankruptcy twice.

In August 2014, Revel announced that if it did not receive any acceptable bids to purchase the casino, it would close by September 1st. It closed one day after that.

On October 1st, 2014, Brookfield US Holdings won a bankruptcy auction for the Revel, bidding $ 110 million. This angered Glenn Straub, who felt some funny business was going on when the auction was delayed from the previous week even though all parties were present. The Press of Atlantic City reported that Revel executives held closed-door meetings to discuss offers, which raised the suspicion of Straub.

Straub’s company, Polo North Country club, had bid $ 95.4 million, a bid which was used as a backup in case the sale to Brookfield fell through. As it turned out, the sale did fall through and in January 2015, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale to Straub. In February, though, Revel cancelled the Straub deal and then in April engaged in talks once again with Straub, eventually agreed to sell him the casino for only $ 82 million.

In June 2016, Straub said he was going to reopen the resort with just a small casino and lots of entertainment facilities like a water park, an e-sports lounge, and an equestrian facility. In September of that year, the property was renamed TEN, but in the end, it never reopened.

Bruce Deifik, though, has said he will re-open the property this summer with a new name, Ocean Resort Casino.

“We are incredibly excited that we were able to take advantage of the opportunity to acquire this tremendous property at a time when Atlantic City is seeing great economic strides,” Deifik said in a statement. “Now the city has a number of exciting new projects with our property and the Hard Rock, as well as Stockton University’s new campus and the expansion of the medical center.”

The Hard Rock that Deifik mentioned is the former Trump Taj Mahal, which closed October 10th, 2016. In March 2017, the Seminole Tribe of Florida purchased the former east coast poker haven and announced it would rebranded the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

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Atlantic City Mayor Urges Carl Icahn to Sell Trump Taj Mahal

 Atlantic City Mayor Urges Carl Icahn to Sell Trump Taj Mahal

The Trump Taj Mahal has been closed for three months, a black hole on the uptown end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Its owner, Carl Icahn, shows little serious desire to do anything to revive it.

Last Wednesday, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian spoke with reporters after his State of Atlantic City speech at the Golden Nugget last Wednesday, saying he would like Icahn to sell the former poker mecca of the east coast to someone who well get it up and running again.

“It’s the worst of the worst, things like that,” Guardian said, referring to the Taj’s closing. “Taj Mahal was the crown jewel before the Borgata in Atlantic City. It’s a great facility, but it didn’t get that $ 100 million face lift that the other properties got in Atlantic City and so you knew it when you walked in there. But it’s a great property; I really hope that Mr. Icahn, if he doesn’t want to build, sells it…and lets someone else come in and do it.”

“He doesn’t have any faith in the city, I get it, or the state…but don’t let us lose that building and leave it vacant on the Boardwalk. We need the thousands of jobs, we need the taxes, and we need the type of activity that it draws to bring people to Atlantic City.”

Guardian added that he felt confident that eventually something will be figured out and Icahn will find a financially beneficial solution for himself and someone else will be able to get the action going again at the Taj Mahal.

Carl Icahn and his company Icahn Enterprises took control of the Taj Mahal after the casino’s former owner, Trump Entertainment Resorts, emerged from bankruptcy proceedings in February 2016. He had pledged the $ 100 million that Guardian mentioned, but wanted concessions from the Unite Here Local 54 union and tax breaks from the city and state in return. He got the concessions – union members lost their pension and healthcare benefits – but he didn’t get the tax breaks, so the $ 100 million was never invested.

During the first half of 2016, the union tried to negotiate with Icahn Enterprises to get their pension and healthcare back, but the company wouldn’t budge. Thus, about 1,000 Taj Mahal staff members went on strike in early July.  A few weeks later, Tropicana Entertainment (the company that operates the Taj) President and CEO Tony Rodio announced that the casino would be closing, blaming it on a lack of profitability brought on by the strike.

Since October 10th, Icahn has been losing hundreds of thousands dollars a month letting it sit vacant, as utilities still cost money, as do things like property taxes. In late December, the New York Post reported that Icahn was in talks with other casino operators to possibly sell the casino, but last week, Icahn told the Associated Press that the Taj Mahal was not for sale.

He did make one exception: he said he would happily sell for $ 300 million to Mayor Guardian, which is the amount of money he says he has lost since owning the casino.

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A Tale of Two Cities: Atlantic City Blues and Las Vegas Changes

 A Tale of Two Cities: Atlantic City Blues and Las Vegas Changes

Once they were intricately linked as the only two “legal” areas to gamble in the United States. Since 1976, when the state of New Jersey joined Nevada as the only places which offered casino gaming in the U. S., the two have enjoyed a friendly rivalry as the years have gone by. Forty years later, it seems that there is a tale of two cities that have vastly different outcomes.

In an article earlier this month, journalist Brent Johnson of discussed the problems of the city on the Jersey Shore. The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a proposal which would allow state officials to take over operation of Atlantic City due to municipal insolvency – essentially the city is bankrupt. According to Johnson, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (who is entertaining the idea of running for Governor) is “pursuing the plan as the best way to save Atlantic City, which has given millions of dollars in casino tax revenue to the state for decades.” Sweeney has a powerful ally on his side, current New Jersey governor Chris Christie (back from his failed attempt at the GOP Presidential nomination), who has said Sweeney would be “given all the tools at my disposal” to make Atlantic City successful again.

Naturally, Atlantic City officials aren’t pleased with these moves. Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian says the plan from Trenton is “the takeover of a fascist dictatorship” and that it goes way too far. Guardian has some support from state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, reports Johnson, but Christie is laying the blame for the failure of the city at Prieto’s feet should it occur. The problem at hand is that, without any action, Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service says that Atlantic City could default on debt payments as early as April and may face bankruptcy.

To paraphrase Timbuk 3, “the future’s so bright, they gotta wear shades” in Las Vegas. According to The Motley Fool, development in Sin City is preparing to make the city even more attractive and not just to those who gamble. The Fool points out three projects that, once completed, should completely change the landscape of Las Vegas and “shift its focus away from gaming,” The Fool states.

The first project is slated for the north end of the Strip. Genting Group is looking to build Resorts World Las Vegas (the picture is what the proposed property would look like) at this location, a $ 4 BILLION complex that will include 7000 hotel rooms, a movie theater, convention arenas and a 30,000 square foot lake in the motif of a Chinese garden. Along with the Wynn, which will be located nearby, and the Venetian and Palazzo operations, the addition of the Resorts property would shift the balance of power to the north side of the Las Vegas Strip.

MGM Resorts is not getting left behind, building a 20,000 seat multi-purpose arena behind New York-New York that will be an enticement for professional sports teams looking for a new home. With the National Hockey League looking at Las Vegas as a potential expansion outlet, the MGM Resorts’ T-Mobile Arena would be a perfect spot for the franchise to play. Besides the NHL other sporting events (boxing and MMA, indoor motocross, indoor football, etc.), concerts and trade shows could be staged at the new property.

Finally, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is looking to spend $ 2.3 BILLION to put a new Las Vegas Convention Center on the site of the long-gone Riviera Hotel and Casino. Located in the same area as the Wynn (see, the North End is booming), it would be a further indication that the city of Las Vegas is looking to move away from casino gaming and towards making the city a primo location for conventions. According to The Fool, at least one in 10 visitors to Las Vegas now go there for business purposes such as a convention rather than pleasure.

So why the big difference between the two? Atlantic City once was the ONLY spot to gamble on the East Coast when it opened in 1976. Since then, however, every state around New Jersey has opened some form of casino gaming, usurping the crowds that used to hit the Boardwalk (four casinos have closed in Atlantic City in the past two years). In 2006, the New Jersey casinos generated over $ 5.1 billion in revenues for the city and state; in 2013, those figures dropped to around $ 2.8 billion and, in 2015, fell to $ 2.3 billion.

Las Vegas, however, has a long history of gaming and – for good or ill – a constant ability to reinvent itself. Sin City realizes that there are a multitude of reasons that people come to the desert and tries to give it all to the people. As such, that constant “change” keeps people coming back. It also helps that it is one of the most popular destinations for air travel in the U. S., where Atlantic City is a good hour’s drive from the nearest major airport.

The “twin sisters of gaming” seem to have changed as they have gotten a bit older. Las Vegas will always be there, its chameleon-like visage constantly shifting with the times. The story may not be as good with Atlantic City, who is more like the fading starlet that is potentially past her prime.

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