ATLANTIC CITY — Twenty-seven years ago, before he was president, Donald Trump walked the gaming floor of the Trump Taj Mahal, celebrating its grand opening.
On the anniversary of the property’s opening ceremony, Hard Rock International on Wednesday detailed plans to spend nearly $400 million rebranding the property into the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City.
The new facility will feature two separate arenas with seating totaling 7,000 and more than 2,400 slot machines. The property is expected to open in the summer of 2018.
“If we can’t do it right, we’re not going to do it,” said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International. “Our commitment to Atlantic City has never been stronger, and we look forward to being a catalyst for further growth and development of the area.”
Allen is confident Hard Rock’s opening will not hurt the city’s remaining seven casinos. In 2016, the casino industry generated more than $3.6 billion in revenue.
“Atlantic City, no doubt, has had some challenging times,” said Allen, who owns a home in Linwood. “I think that it’s very important to understand that it’s still the second biggest gaming market in the United States.”
Resort casinos have struggled for years as gambling spread to Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere, siphoning gamblers who once came exclusively to Atlantic City. But Allen says Hark Rock will bring new people to Atlantic City.
“With the Hard Rock brand and its ability to attract 100 million people on an annual basis, we are very confident that we can grow the market,” Allen said. “I can assure you our marketing plans are not just to take the customers from the existing properties.”
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Hard Rock bought the casino March 1 from billionaire investor Carl Icahn. The project is expected to create more than 1,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, according to Hard Rock. Since the transaction was finalized March 31, Hard Rock has already hired 23 employees as it sets out to bring the once-iconic Taj Mahal back to life under a new name and identity.
While no purchase price was given, the property was valued at $86 million, according to Icahn Enterprises’ 2016 financial report.
Icahn closed the property Oct. 10, following a labor dispute with Unite Here Local 54.
“This is an extraordinary brand that is coming here to Atlantic City,” Gov. Chris Christie said. “The investment is great news for the city and the state.”
Hard Rock is partnering with the fellow New Jersey residents Joseph Jingoli and Jack Morris.
In true New Jersey fashion, the event featured a Bruce Springsteen tribute band and a speech by E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt.
Morris joked the project would be a success because Allen, Jingoli and himself are all “Jersey boys.”
“When I met him (Allen), I saw in his eyes and heart how he felt about Atlantic City. This was not another deal to him, this was personal,” Morris said. “I have a passion for turning things around. I will try with all my heart to do just that. It’s not just about rebuilding the Taj Mahal casino with one of the world’s best hotel casinos. It’s about Atlantic City.”
The Hard Rock Cafe opened in the Taj Mahal in November 1996 amid great fanfare over its hallmark rock memorabilia. Under the redevelopment plan, the restaurant will move to a new 400-seat venue in the property featuring beach access.
“2018 is going to be a great year for us,” Mayor Don Guardian said.