By Brenda Flanagan
“Atlantic City is back. It’s profitable,” said Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen.
So says Hard Rock’s chairman. From a facade featuring elephants to swank fountains and guitars, Hard Rock’s new $375 million Atlantic City casino hotel will utterly transform the 27-year-old Taj Mahal and the city’s economic landscape. Allen says funding is in place and the new gaming hall will work with Atlantic City’s seven remaining casinos.
“I assure you, our marketing plans are not just to take the customer from the existing properties. It is the direct opposite. I obviously know a lot of the other property presidents here in town, and it’s our goal to work with them, to market Atlantic City as one destination, not just the Hard Rock,” Allen said.
At an SRO news conference, Hard Rock announced it’ll create 1,000 new construction jobs to totally renovate the property — new bathrooms, new furniture, new casino floor — and permanently employ 3,000 union workers to run a casino with 2,400 slots and 130 table games.
“It means all new restaurants. It means over 7,000 entertainment seats in this facility. And we are not a company that’s of the mindset that you only do entertainment on Saturday night,” Allen said.
“So I am the most grateful person in the room today to be welcoming Hard Rock here,” said Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian.
The mayor’s thrilled — despite Atlantic City’s beleaguered local government now chafing under state control. But Gov. Chris Christie said without the state takeover, Hard Rock wouldn’t have invested here.
“People were leaving Atlantic City because they were losing money. They were leaving Atlantic City because of the awful conditions that they were met with from a governmental perspective. And so we’ve changed that. Whenever you change that, it’s hard to do. You’re not making friends, in the short term,” Christie said.
“I’ve got to tell you, this is one of the happiest days I’ve had in a lot of years, knowing that 3,000 people are coming back. You know, governor, sometimes it is worth it,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
“We’re the Jersey boys,” said Jack Morris.
This venture’s got three partners. Hard Rock’s Allen is Jersey-born, as are two well-known New Jersey developers — Joe Jingoli and Morris.
“Folks, this is what the bottom looks like. I truly believe Atlantic City is about to hit a new renaissance. And not in a few decades, but in a few years,” Jingoli said.
“Now we’re going to see what we can do from here. Just look at what Atlantic City can start to accomplish with Stockton [University] coming here, South Jersey industries and there’s more great things to come,” Morris said.
Morris said he’ll never forget buying the property from billionaire Carl Icahn who closed it last October, after a bitter strike over benefits with union casino workers.
“And I know he may have pissed off a lot of people in this city and this state, but he was a true gentleman, and he gave us the opportunity to be here today,” Morris said.
They closed with a special appearance by the E Street Band’s Little Steven Van Zandt who promised concert dates on the beach as AC comes back.
“It’s a vote of confidence, you know, for the brand and for this town, and I think it’s a wonderful thing for New Jersey. So I’m with you,” he said.
The Hard Rock’s planning a casino celebratory opening for summer of 2018 — complete with ritual guitar smashing.