Hard Rock Outlines Plans for Meadowlands Casino Complex

By Brenda Flanagan

With typical panache, Hard Rock International debuted plans for a casino complex built around Jeff Gural’s Meadowlands Racetrack while speakers blared Bruce Springsteen.

Promotional videos showed a modern facade, dominated by Hard Rock’s iconic guitar.

“It’s a beacon in the night. We want people when they’re in Manhattan to see the Meadowlands and see that — on the Jersey side — there’s an amazing entertainment destination,” said Hard Rock International Chairman and CEO Jim Allen.

Hard Rock Exec Allen described an entertainment dome that changes with the seasons, 5,000 slot machines, 200 gaming tables, restaurants and bars, plus a music museum featuring a rotating collection of rock ‘n’ roll’s historic memorabilia. He says they’ll lure customers with star power and branding.

“We will bring all of our resources that no one in the world can match to create this iconic destination,” said Allen.

“There is some perception that Jeff and I are thinking about ‘slots in a box.’ Let it be said and done — our renderings and video fly through will clearly demonstrate that’s not what we’re looking to do,” Allen said.

Allen says Phase One could be up and running by next summer, early fall, creating more than 2,300 union construction jobs — that got applause — and giving preference to local vendors. He repeated Gural’s offer to pay a 55 percent tax — generating $400 million to help revitalize Atlantic City’s tanking economy and rejuvenate horse racing in New Jersey.

“We have assurances that from the revenue stream, there’d be money dedicated to horse racing, both for standard and thoroughbred. Monmouth Park would receive a share,” said Dennis Drazin.

Praise flowed from a dais packed with politicians who’ve offered bills to put a referendum authorizing casino licenses outside of Atlantic City before New Jersey voters.

“I’m for no more than two. I’d be happy to put up a referendum that says one — in the Meadowlands,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

“We will work together and we will be going to the ballot to ensure that we get this Hard Rock casino built here in the Meadowlands and I promise I will work with colleagues to make this promise become a reality,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo.

“And this could be an economic engine, not just for this region but for the whole state of New Jersey. That’s how important this is,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

Conspicuous by their absence: South Jersey lawmakers — including Sen President Sweeney – who’s been unsure about when
to post the referendum.

“The most important message to be delivered today by me is, this is not a fight between North Jersey and South Jersey. We believe with all my heart this is good for the state of New Jersey,” Gural said.

So the Hard Rock Casino Meadowlands PR machine is off and running, but the finish line — whether that referendum will be held this November or in 2016 — well, that remains undecided.