ATLANTIC CITY — The resort is heading in the right directions, as companies line up to invest millions of dollars in the city, said Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association.
The opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City next summer, the proposed joint venture between MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp., and the possible reopening of the former Revel, now known as TEN, are all signs the resort’s gaming industry is recovering after three years when five casinos closed and the gaming industry lost about 10,000 jobs.
“The Atlantic City market is an exciting market right now,” Freeman said during an AGA event at Stockton University. “There is no doubt the market right-sized itself over the last couple of years. While the closing of the facilities was painful for many, it strengthened the community; it strengthened Atlantic City’s potential for the future.”
In addition to the new projects, the resort could soon reap the benefits of sports betting, which could produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for casinos and the state. In June, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from Gov. Chris Christie and the state of New Jersey to allow betting on professional and collegiate sports at the state’s casinos and racetracks.
“No state is better positioned than New Jersey and no location is better positioned than Atlantic City to quickly capitalize on it,” Freeman said. “This area has been talking about it for years, so there is going to be no debate if we should have it. The casinos are already scouting out where the sports books will be located.”
Next summer, Hard Rock International and investors Joe Jingoli and Jack Morris are expected to the reopen the former Trump Taj Mahal as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Over the next year, the group is expected to spend more than $500 million to renovate the property. MGM and Caesars have also announced that they would team up on a development project, but few details have been released.
“What is exciting is that people are spending money in the city and not taking it out of the city,” Freeman said. “I think that should give people confidence and a quiet optimism about the future.”
The opening of Hard Rock and the possible reopening of the former Revel could lead to challenges for the city’s current operators. Freeman said.
“Atlantic City and the state of New Jersey learned many painful but important lessons over the last decade,” Freeman said. “I don’t see anything like what we went through over the last couple of years repeating itself. That being said, the market being more competitive does create new challenges — some of which are very good.”
“But when it comes to the gaming side, we know there is only so much capacity, and it’s important to keep that at a stable level,” Freeman added.
Hard Rock’s new facility is going to force people to reinvest in their properties, he said.
“Others are going to have to up their game and that is a good challenge. At the same time, the market only has so much capacity,” Freeman said.