ATLANTIC CITY — The cost of turning the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort into Hard Rock Casino Hotel Atlantic City could top $500 million.
Hard Rock International originally announced the rebranding of the 4 million-square-foot property would cost as much as $400 million, but after further inspection, Jim Allen, Hard Rock International chairman, said it could be higher.
“The building is tired,” Allen said Thursday during the keynote address of the 21st annual East Coast Gaming Congress and NexGen Gaming Forum at Harrah’s Resort. “When we first bought it, we thought we would spend $350 million, then it became $375 million, then it became $400 million. We are now committed to putting a minimum of $500 million into that building.”
Part of the increase is tied to removing the Indian-themed decor from the property, once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
“They created a hell of a theme,” Allen said, laughing. “The amount of money that we are going to have spend to remove that stuff, we are spending not $10 million, not $20 million, not $30 million.”
Allen said he 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.
“The days of right-sizing and downsizing are behind us,” Allen said.
The new property will feature two separate arenas, with seating totaling 7,000, and more than 2,400 slot machines. The property is expected to open in summer 2018. The group of investors, including Hard Rock International, paid $50 million for the property once owned by now President Donald J. Trump, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
“We bought it at a great price,” Allen said.
The project is expected to create more than 1,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, according to Hard Rock. Since the transaction March 31, Hard Rock has hired 23 employees as it sets out to bring the once iconic Taj Mahal back to life under a new name and identity.
Since purchasing the property, Allen said he has met with unions, including Unite Here Local 54. Taj Mahal close closed Oct. 10 amid a strike by Local 54 members. Taj Mahal management accused the union of preventing a “path of profitability” for the property.
“I can say today that I’ve met with all of the unions and there is going to be no labor dispute,” Allen said. “We are going to hire. We are going to work with the unions. I’m not interested in some fight over something that doesn’t matter. We will treat them fair.”