Can Hard Rock Completely Renovate The Taj And Still Open Before TEN Does?

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Hard Rock Casino sign
The race to become Atlantic City’s eighth open and operating casino resort is a lot closer than one might think.

For those keeping score at home, 12 casino properties opened in Atlantic City since New Jersey casinos became legal in the late 1970s. Five of the 12 have shut their doors since 2014, leaving seven open and operating.

Which casino will be the eighth? There are a couple of contenders.

The upstart underdog: Hard Rock

At an Atlantic City Casino Reinvestment Development Authority board meeting this week, Hard Rock International announced the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will soon join the casino line-up. Executives said the property plans to open its doors over Memorial Day weekend in 2018.

It’s the first firm date announced since Hard Rock International finalized the $50 million purchase of the currently closed Trump Taj Mahal property in March.

Of course, it will come after Hard Rock International puts $500 million into a major renovation and rebranding. Essentially, the date gives them about one year to complete the project. It seems like a reasonable timeline. That is, unless some major construction issues get in the way.

In fact, the timeline might even be enough to make the property the new favorite to get to market first. Particularly when you consider the continuing troubles the previous frontrunner to become Atlantic City’s eighth casino has faced.

The fading favorite: TEN

The other horse in this race is the still shuttered Revel, which has since been rebranded as TEN. It could conceivably open any day now. Only it hasn’t yet, and probably won’t.

The $2 billion Boardwalk casino resort faced considerable construction issues and financial troubles before it opened in 2012. It shut down a little over two years later.

In 2015, Florida developer Glenn Straub bought the property out of bankruptcy court for $82 million. However, he hasn’t been able to open the doors yet.

Straub has run into numerous issues obtaining the permits to do so. In fact, relaunch dates have been pushed back several times. Plus, he still refuses to apply for the casino license. New Jersey officials told Straub numerous times that the property will not be eligible to open without a license.

Straub maintains he doesn’t need a casino license because he’ll be leasing out gaming operations to a third party. In fact, he even made plans to reopen the hotel side of the property on June 15 of this year without it. That date has come and gone. The doors are still closed.

Straub misses opening day again

Straub finally admitted he couldn’t open the hotel without the casino about a week before he planned to do it. This came after his appeal of the Casino Control Commission ruling requiring him to obtain a casino license for the property. He filed the motion in the first week of June. Now, he’s abstaining from setting any new launch dates, as he awaits a decision there.

In the meantime, the bills are piling up. Straub says he’s already poured $20 million in the property, paying $1.5 million a month in taxes.

Plus, last week a New Jersey judge put a $62,000 lien on the property for his failure to pay 2015 Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Special Improvement District fees. Straub also refused to shell out a $20 million casino payment-in-lieu of taxes. He claims he shouldn’t have to pay because the casino hasn’t been operating.

It all adds up to even more reasons why TEN isn’t likely to open anytime soon.

Atlantic City race tightens up

Straub admitted he’d sell for the right price. However, even if he could make a deal with an established casino company rather quickly, and the new owners got all the regulatory ducks in a row right away, TEN would still be months, not days, from opening.

Although Straub denied ever meeting with the group, Hard Rock claims they sniffed around TEN before buying the Taj. At some point, Hard Rock must have concluded that buying a property 20 years older than TEN and spending a year renovating made more sense. And as inconceivable as it sounded at the time, it may have even been the choice that gets them to market faster.

Photo by Usa-Pyon / Shutterstock.com

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Martin Derbyshire

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Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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