Casinos and Gaming

Hard Rock hopes to bring Vegas sensibilities to Atlantic City, NJ with its new casino

Key Points
  • Hard Rock's Jim Allen hopes to bring Las Vegas sensibilities to struggling Atlantic City, New Jersey with Thursday's opening of their new casino.
  • Hard Rock could be taking a risk. Over the last five years, five AC casinos shuttered their doors as they struggled to attract customers.
Atlantic City's Hard Rock casino will be a 'game changer,' says CEO

Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen hopes to bring Las Vegas sensibilities to stuggling Atlantic City, New Jersey with their new casino, which officially opened up to the public Thursday morning.

"We would certainty agree that Atlantic City is still primarily a gaming total gross revenue market," meaning gambling remains AC's bread and butter, said Allen, also CEO of Seminole Gaming which owns Hard Rock.

"Our goal is to continue to try to move that to where it's not 80 [to] 90 percent, but we eventually get into a 60 [to] 65 percent gaming, 35 [to] 40 percent or so nongaming," Allen told CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City received approval Wednesday from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. It opens alongside Ocean Resort Casino, which also received permission just hours later from the state regulators. Hard Rock replaces the old Trump Taj Mahal. Ocean Resort Casino, which also opened Thursday, replaces the old Revel.

Hard Rock — which has a network of signature cafes, hotels and casinos in 50 countries, including Vegas — could be taking a risk. Over the last five years, five casinos shuttered their doors in Atlantic City as they struggled to attract customers in the face of legal casinos in nearby states, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.

Unlike Las Vegas, which has been steadily moving towards nongaming revenue, Atlantic City has still relied heavily on gambling.

However, Hard Rock plans to try to attract customers to its Atlantic City location through live entertainment, bringing in big names such as rapper Pitbull and singer Carrie Underwood.

"We thought it was a great opportunity for the Hard Rock brand," Allen said Thursday, adding that New Jersey residents were really rooting for the new casino.

"No matter how we look at it, the casino customer is about trip frequency," he continued. "We're all competing for trips. But if you offer a quality experience, [Hard Rock] Atlantic City has so many amenities ... that others just can't compete with."