Wheels Set In Motion For Hard Rock AC, Ocean Resort And Showboat

Written By Eric Ramsey on February 26, 2018 - Last Updated on February 25, 2018

The wheels are grinding into motion for the two Atlantic City casinos set to reopen in 2018.

Hard Rock AC and the Ocean Resort Casino plan to welcome their first guests before the end of the summer. It’s an ambitious timeline for two of the city’s largest properties.

Both have begun the process of hiring staff, with about 6,000 jobs needing to be filled. Some of those are casino positions, shedding some early light on those operations.

At Hard Rock, evidence of progress is especially visible. Construction workers are poking away at the building’s exterior on a daily basis.

All of that noise is apparently drawing some attention from a neighbor.

The Showboat is considering returning to its own gambling roots this year. Now a non-gaming hotel, the Showboat’s casino floor has been roped off since 2014.

Workers buzzing around new AC casinos

Construction progress is evident outside of Hard Rock. Recent photos appear to show workers renovating the facade and setting the outlines of the new logos.

It’s safe to assume that there’s brisk activity within the four million square feet of interior space, too. The building has been vacant since 2016 and could have used a coat of paint even then. Hard Rock set aside $500 million for renovations and improvements.

The music-themed property hopes to rekindle the city’s once-vibrant entertainment scene. The existing venue will transform into a new 7,000-seat Hard Rock Live, a multipurpose arena worthy of world-class performances. It aims to host 200 shows within the first year.

The entertainment will extend out to the Boardwalk, too. City officials recently granted Hard Rock permits to build a beach bar near Steel Pier.

On Tuesday, Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen reaffirmed that the property is still on track to open early this summer.

The new Ocean Resort has less cosmetic work to do between now and the summer, both inside and out. The property was just built in 2012 at a cost of more than $2 billion. It’s been closed since 2014, so there are only two years of wear and tear on the carpets.

Casino plans include online gambling, maybe sports betting?

Both properties are banking on the health of the NJ online casino market. Plans for online gambling have already been announced, and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) confirms both have applied for their licenses.

Gaming Innovation Group (GIG) will power the Hard Rock online casino product. The partnership, announced recently, had been rumored since last year. Although GIG has an expansive footprint overseas, NJ will mark its entry point into the US online casino market.

The Ocean Resort online casino will be powered by the Game Account Network (GAN). GAN, which also powers Betfair NJ, is a world leader in the space. It provides real-money and social gaming to dozens of casinos throughout Europe and the States. Glenn Straub used GAN to run his social casino when he owned the property.

Thanks to a new partnership with SBTech, GAN has incorporated sports betting into its platform, too. It says it plans to offer NJ sports betting if the state is granted the relief it’s seeking from the federal sports wagering prohibition. The Ocean’s new owner, Bruce Deifik, wants his brick-and-mortar sportsbook to be the “best in market.”

GIG is moving into the vertical, as well. It recently joined forces with Perform to support a new sports betting endeavor.

Although it’s not currently legal in the state, the general sentiment is that NJ sports betting is coming, pending a ruling from the US Supreme Court.

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Showboat owner considers reopening casino

A third Atlantic City casino might be reopening in short order, too.

According to Press of AC, Showboat owner Bart Blatstein has taken the first steps toward becoming a casino operator. His property resides along a prime strip of AC Boardwalk, sandwiched right in between Hard Rock and the Ocean. Its vacant gaming floor hasn’t taken a bet in four years.

Blatstein recently filed for a preliminary notice of compliance from the DGE, which will determine his suitability for a casino license. He has never held one, purchasing the property as a $23 million non-gaming hotel in 2016.

It sounds like Blatstein is banking on the efforts of other developers in the neighborhood. “There is over a billion dollars worth of investment in that part of the town,” he said. “That should not be ignored.”

The two properties that flank his are expected to bring a spark of new activity to the area.

More than 125,000 square feet of Showboat floor space are currently roped off, the section that’s supposed to generate the most dense revenue. Blatstein is still several steps away from taking down the ropes, but he appears to be inching in that direction.

And if Showboat gets back into the casino business, could online gambling and sports betting be far behind?

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Eric Ramsey

Eric is a reporter and writer covering the NJ gambling industry, online poker, sports betting regulation, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.

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