ATLANTIC CITY — In three days, casino executives and city officials will smash ceremonial guitars, pop champagne and congratulate each other on a job well done as the city’s two newest casinos — the first since 2012 — open within an hour of each other.
But that’s Thursday.
Before then, there are games to be tested, pools to be inspected, millions of dollars of construction to be examined and mercantile licenses to be filed.
Monday and Tuesday will serve as “soft play” days at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino. Similar to a soft opening at a restaurant where friends and family of the staff dine before the establishment opens to the public, the casinos’ slot and table games will be played by invited guests of the two properties.
Officials with the state Division of Gaming Enforcement will be on site to ensure the integrity of the games and that proper financial practices are being adhered to. Regulators also will conduct tests and checks of the two casinos’ floor, pit and cage operations.
Hard Rock has more than 2,100 slot machines and 120 table games spread out over 167,000 square feet of gaming space. Ocean Resort has nearly 2,000 slots and just about 100 table games on 131,000 square feet of casino floor.
Dale Finch, director of licensing and inspections for the city, said employees in his department have been working furiously to make sure both properties are ready to go. Electrical, plumbing, fire and health inspections will continue at the casinos until everything is in accordance with the uniform construction code, he said.
Finch said that when Hard Rock announced its plans last year to reopen the closed Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the department received authorization for additional inspectors to handle the increased load. With the additional opening of Ocean Resort, even the increased number of employees is being stretched out.
“All of our construction staff is on call. We’ve told them (the two casinos) we’ll be there when they need us,” Finch said Friday, noting that some of the city’s inspectors have been on the properties well into the evening on more than one occasion. “It’s been a lot of work, and everybody’s been running around to get ready, but our staff stepped up.”
Noticeable construction is still taking place at both properties. At Hard Rock, signage, landscaping and painting are in the final stages. A 60-foot signature guitar sign was installed in the casino’s porte cochere Saturday afternoon. A smaller, 30-foot sign installed Thursday came in with a typo that was corrected later that day. Two blocks down the Boardwalk at Ocean Resort, the separating wall is being replaced by a large sign bearing the casino’s logo.
Ocean Resort is focused on putting finishing touches on several areas of the resort, including loading inventory, installing some signage and holding mock dinner service with internal guests, said Ashley Polo, vice president of brand marketing and communication.
“The entire team at Ocean Resort Casino is committed to delivering each and every guest an exceptional experience, and we are excited to be able to do so later this week,” Polo said.
Between the two properties, nearly 6,000 employees are in the final stages of training in preparation for opening day. Hard Rock has nearly 20 restaurants and bars on property, while Ocean Resort has 13 eateries and six pools. Each property has between 30 and 40 retail stores as well.
Asked during the casino license hearing for Ocean Resort whether the property would be ready by June 28, CEO Frank Leone responded, “Absolutely. We’re looking forward to it.”