Hard Rock Cafe to remain open in Atlantic City

Hard Rock International, which still operates Hard Rock Cafe at the shuttered Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, plans to reopen the property as a casino hotel.

Michael Ein / Staff Photographer

ATLANTIC CITY — A group of investors led by Hard Rock International is buying the closed Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.

Investor Carl Icahn announced the sale Wednesday after The Press of Atlantic City first reported the deal. The site will be re-branded as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City as part of a $300 million purchase and renovation expected to create 3,000 temporary and permanent jobs.

Mayor Don Guardian said he is expecting a summer 2018 opening for the hotel and casino.

The deal will allow Hard Rock, an entertainment, casino and resort chain with a global brand, entry into Atlantic City’s gaming market, something it first proposed in 2010.

Icahn, who also owns Tropicana Atlantic City and the shuttered Trump Plaza, said his company wanted just one operating casino in the city.

“A sale of the Taj Mahal therefore represents the optimal outcome for us,” Icahn said. “We wish Hard Rock and its partners the best of luck with the Taj Mahal.”

Icahn’s statement said the sale is subject to customary closing conditions but no financing conditions.

“We are excited to be part of this revitalization of Atlantic City, creating thousands of jobs to help local employment,” Hard Rock President and CEO Jim Allen said in a statement.

Allen is a 1978 Mainland Regional High School graduate, owns a home in Linwood and has strong ties to the Atlantic City casino industry.

Two other investors are the Jingoli and Morris families.

Joseph Jingoli is construction manager for Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus.

“We’re excited to be part of such an important project for Atlantic City,” Joseph and Michael Jingoli said in statement. “This project is led by a proven leader in gaming, brings hundreds of millions in new investment, creates hundreds of construction positions, countless positions within the Hard Rock Hotel and will bring thousands and thousands of new visitors to this great city.”

Jack Morris, head of the Morris family, is CEO of Edgewood Properties, a real estate development and property management company.

Taj Mahal, once owned by President Donald J. Trump, closed Oct. 10 amid a strike by Unite Here Local 54 union members. The closing put 2,100 people out of work.

“This deal is welcome news, not just for the 2,000 union workers who can look forward to greater job security and a hopefully healthier working relationship with management, but also for the greater Atlantic City region as a whole,” said state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland.

Sweeney sponsored a bill that would have punished Icahn for closing Taj. The measure would have disqualified a casino license applicant for five years if that person “substantially” closes a casino in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie later vetoed the bill.

Hard Rock operates 172 Hard Rock cafes, including a still-active restaurant at Taj. The Florida based-company also operates 24 hotels and 11 casinos.

By staying open, the Hard Rock restaurant in Atlantic City was losing “millions of dollars,” Allen said in November. It had about 100 employees.

In December, Trump Taj Mahal Associates LLC notified the Division of Gaming Enforcement it intended to surrender its casino license.

Christie, who enacted a law that gave the state control of the city’s finances in May, issued a statement Wednesday night on the deal, calling it “great news” for the state.

“There is no doubt that this purchase was encouraged by our efforts to stabilize the finances of the city government. Businesses now know that the years of irresponsible spending and taxing by the city government are over and they are ready to once again invest in Atlantic City,” the statement said.

Sweeney and state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, were the first public officials to speak about the deal before Icahn’s formal announcement.

Guardian praised the sale as a key step in redeveloping that end of the city’s Boardwalk.

“Now is the time to invest in our great city,” Guardian said. “The price is right. We need to bring back thousands of jobs for our Atlantic City residents and for South Jersey.”

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Contact: 609-272-7046 NHuba@pressofac.com

Twitter @acpresshuba

Started working in newsrooms when I was 17 years old. Spent 15 years working for Gannett New Jersey before coming to The Press of Atlantic City in April 2015.

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