ATLANTIC CITY — The days leading up to the official grand openings of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Resort Casino are intended to give the properties an opportunity to fine-tune details and put finishing touches on the multimillion dollar projects.

Tuesday was the second “soft play” day for the casinos, which is similar to a low-key opening of a new restaurant when friends and family dine before the public gets a chance so the kitchen and serving staff can perfect their duties. In the casinos, the days give state regulators a chance to inspect gaming operations and ensure compliance with the Casino Control Act.

Some visitors staying inside the hotels gave mixed reviews as the countdown clock ticked away toward Thursday.

Tate Dixon, of Okeechobee, Florida, traveled with his girlfriend, who was an invited guest and member of the Seminole tribe, to Atlantic City for the first time. Staying inside the renovated Hard Rock — the company spent more than $500 million upgrading the former Trump Taj Mahal — Dixon was disappointed in his room, which lacked air conditioning Monday evening. He said the couple was getting a new room Tuesday.

“It looks great (inside),” Dixon said. “It’s way bigger (than the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida) and everything’s brand new.”

When asked if he would make a return trip to Atlantic City in the future to stay at Hard Rock, Dixon quickly replied, “Absolutely.”

Kristyn Greenstein, niece of Ocean Resort CFO Alan Greenstein, stayed Monday night with her two daughters, Abby, 12, and Bella,14, Caruso. The trio ate dinner at American Cut, and Greenstein said “it was the best steak I ever had.” Coming from Forked River, Greenstein said she had visited the casino hotel when it was Revel but she was excited by the new changes.

“There’s so much to do inside,” she said Tuesday on the Boardwalk, listing off retail shops, restaurants, amenities and the Exhale Spa. “You could never imagine all this in one place.”

Just across the Boardwalk from where Dixon was sitting, crews were painting the steps at Hard Rock. On the other side of the property, on Pacific Avenue, construction workers were feverishly trying to get the Rocktane gas and convenience store completed, but a worker at the site said they were still a few days off. The final touches also were being completed on the sand, where employees at the Hard Rock Beach Bar were stocking liquor bottles, prepping cabanas and sweeping the boards.

Matt Harkness, property president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, said the soft play days were “two very important days.” Harkness, who has prior experience with casino openings as a key part of the Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, said preparations for Thursday have been going on for months.

“Things are really in good shape,” Harkness said Monday. “We’re really looking forward to the grand opening. ... It’s just going to be an incredible week.”

Outside Ocean Resort, electricians installed wiring Tuesday afternoon on the new set of Boardwalk steps that replaced the “prison wall” — as owner Bruce Deifik referred to it during his casino license hearing last week — left by the former Revel Casino Hotel. Removing the wall, installing glass safety barriers on the escalators and refurbishing nearly all of the property’s 1,399 available hotel rooms are all part of the nearly $35 million in upgrades Deifik made to the $2.4 billion hotel he purchased in January.

Ashley Polo, vice president of brand marketing and communications, said Ocean Resort is focused on “putting the finishing touches on several areas of the resort.”

“This includes loading inventory, installing some signage and holding mock dinner service with internal guests,” Polo said. “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.”

Hard Rock will smash guitars for its grand opening festivities at 11 a.m. Ocean Resort will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m.

Contact: 609-272-7222 DDanzis@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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