New Jersey casino industry resurrected with new openings

By Harrison Sayers

The opening of the Ocean Resort Casino and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City are both set for 28 June, as the casino industry in New Jersey begins its resurgence following the repeal of PASPA and rising online markets.

The newly renovated and soon-to-open Ocean Resort Casino is the tallest building in Atlantic City, reaffirming the city’s historic connection with the gambling and hospitality industry. With the resort set to offer 1,399 rooms, stretching along 20 acres of the city’s boardwalk many people are heralding the project as a sign of a resurgent gambling industry in Atlantic City.

The news comes as Ocean Casino Resort has its final hearing on Thursday in front of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

Bruce Deifik, Chairman of AC Ocean Walk, the owners of the Ocean Resort Casino, and Jim Allen, Chairman and CEO of Hard Rock International, both believe that Atlantic City is ready for the new casinos and see the dual grand opening as a positive sign of the city’s thriving gambling industry.

 “Atlantic City is seeing great economic strides,” said Deifik. “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 centre."

"The Grand Opening of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will set the tone for a new era of entertainment in Atlantic City. Our $500 million, newly re-imagined property will offer something for everyone and we're thrilled to welcome our first guests," said Allen.

However, figures released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) revealed that gaming win revenue fell 5.1% year-on-year during May at the state's casinos, from $229.3 million in May 2017 to $217.6 million during the same period in 2018.

The reduction in revenue experienced by the land-based casinos was juxtaposed by a rise in online gambling revenue of 15.3% to $24.3m - with those figures likely to increase further once mobile sports wagering is introduced in New Jersey, 30 days after the first legal sports wager was accepted at Monmouth Park Racetrack on 14 June.

The shift to online gambling has already diverted revenue that would have previously gone to the land-based casinos and racetracks in the state, and as more casinos open their doors competition in Atlantic City will intensify, especially if the casinos are unable to take advantage of the legalised sports betting and the expanding online market.

New Jersey’s gambling industry has received a lot of attention following the repeal of PASPA and the legalisation of sports betting, making it easy to forget the financial hardships endured by the Atlantic City casinos over the past few years.

When Trump Entertainment Resorts, the owners of the former Trump Taj Mahal, filed for bankruptcy in 2014, it was devastating news for Atlantic City. The city had already seen four of the city’s 12 casinos shut down in a short space of time. Despite investment form Icahn Enterprises the Taj closed its doors on 10 October 2016. The site of the Taj is now home to the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

The Ocean Resort Casino, formerly REVEL Casino Hotel, opened in 2012 for an estimated total investment of nearly $3bn; however, it was acquired at the start of 2018 for just $200m. Analysts at the time claimed that its failure was a result of Atlantic City still going through an economic recovery at the time and the fact that the integrated resort did not cater to the destinations customer base.

Both the Ocean Resort Casino and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will be relying on the improved economic situation in Atlantic City, the growth of online gambling, and the introduction of sports wagering to help them avoid the fate of their venues previous operators as they look to resurrect the once thriving casino industry in New Jersey.

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