ATLANTIC CITY — From ownership changes and restaurant closings to added gaming amenities and capital improvements, neither Hard Rock Hotel & Casino nor Ocean Casino Resort is the same today as when they opened June 27, 2018.
For Ocean, the biggest change has been one in philosophy, said Mike Donovan, chief marketing officer and senior vice president. The property changed ownership in January when Luxor Capital Group, a New York-based hedge fund that had been one of the principal investors, assumed control.
From that moment on, Ocean tried to emphasize its casino while capitalizing on its hotel and nongaming amenities, rather than the other way around, Donovan said. Even during its two-year run as the Revel Casino Hotel, the property never focused on core gambling players, he said.
The attitude change is emphasized in the property’s recent name change, from Ocean Resort Casino to Ocean Casino Resort.
“The property was never marketed as a casino before,” said Donovan, who came to Ocean from Tropicana Atlantic City with several other executives. “It just feels completely different today than when I walked in the door (in March).”
Lan Nguyen, who sat on a bench on the Boardwalk Thursday morning, said it was her second time staying and gambling at Ocean. The 29-year-old, originally from western Massachusetts, said she enjoyed her first stay and decided to return because the casino offered her complimentary rooms.
“I prefer it because it’s nice, it’s clean, it’s newer looking. The view is good,” she said.
ATLANTIC CITY — As the Boardwalk’s two newest casinos prepare to celebrate one-year annivers…
At Hard Rock, the changes have been more incremental, said Joe Lupo, president of the casino hotel.
The former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort underwent a more than $500 million transformation in 2017 and 2018, so most of what has been done since the opening has happened behind the scenes, he said.
“So there weren’t these big changes that were made (in the last year), but it’s more refinement of how do we provide better access and a better customer experience,” Lupo said.
But Lupo himself was a major change at Hard Rock when he took over for former property President Matt Harkness in late 2018. Lupo, a former executive at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, had been working at a Hard Rock property in Tampa, Florida, before returning to Atlantic City.
Since his arrival, Lupo said, Hard Rock has been tweaking its gaming options, which has made a difference in revenue. In May, Hard Rock was second in the market in slot revenue.
“You look at numbers, and you’re able to see where patrons are playing. So we were able to identify games to be added or deleted,” he said. “We’ve been aggressive at gaining more slot product and adding more slots to the floor.”
Opening day of Ocean Resort Casino
Ocean Resort Casino, housed in the former Revel Casino Hotel, opened Thursday, June 28, 2018, to much fanfare, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebrity appearances by actors Mark Wahlberg and Jamie Foxx.
Photo credit: PhotoGraphics
On the nongaming side, more has been done at Ocean than Hard Rock.
The short-lived Cereal Town and Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Club (a Revel holdover) both closed at Ocean. Wahlburgers, a casual-restaurant concept co-owned by celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, had its official grand opening last week at Ocean despite being open for several months already.
Hard Rock unveiled its Sugar Factory restaurant shortly after opening last summer.
While Ocean opened with one of the largest sports betting facilities in town — the William Hill Sportsbook is 7,500-square feet — and placed it right in the center of the gaming floor, Hard Rock was late to the game. A conflict with the NFL and its naming rights deal for the Miami Dolphins stadium delayed the introduction of sports betting for Hard Rock in Atlantic City. The property opened a temporary location before the Super Bowl and later unveiled its permanent facility in March.
Both Hard Rock and Ocean continue to make capital investments.