Hard Rock Atlantic City President Replaced Just Months After Casino Opening

Posted on: October 2, 2018, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: October 2, 2018, 08:34h.

Hard Rock Atlantic City President Matt Harkness will soon be out as the top executive of the Boardwalk casino resort just months after the former Trump Taj Mahal opened its renovated doors.

Hard Rock Atlantic City casino resort
Matt Harkness (right), seen here hiring the 3,000th employee at Hard Rock Atlantic City, is leaving the casino resort. (Image: Craig Matthews/Press of Atlantic City)

Harkness will be replaced effective November 1 by Joe Lupo, who is currently the president of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Florida.

“I would like to thank Matt for his contribution to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and appreciate his efforts leading the successful opening of this exceptional property,” Hard Rock International COO Jon Lucas said in a release.

Lupo is no stranger to Atlantic City, as the longtime casino exec was the senior VP of operations at the Borgata until being poached away by Hard Rock in November 2016. Hard Rock provided no specific reason for parting ways with Harkness.

Hard Rock Atlantic City opened in late June after undergoing more than $550 million in renovations.

Mixed Reviews

Though Harkness will be out a little more than four months after Hard Rock took its first guests in Atlantic City, the president was employed by the Seminole-owned gaming and hospitality company since July 2017.

Previously, Harkness spent 15 years with Trump Entertainment, working in executive capacities at the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza.

He was handed the difficult task of transforming the Taj and its Indian-themed décor into a property that pays homage to New Jersey’s rich rock ‘n’ roll history. Early reviews suggest the reincarnation isn’t living up to expectations.

At TripAdvisor, the casino resort’s average review is 3.5 stars out of five. While that qualifies as “Very Good,” 41 percent of guest reviews list the property at average or worse. Ten percent rated it “Poor” and 12 percent “Terrible.”

I stayed there shortly after it opened and it was a big disaster. The carpet was grimy, the inside of the mini-fridge looked like it had mold and never got cleaned. Neither the cable TV nor the telephone worked,” one reviewer explained.

Borgata, the top gross gambling revenue (GGR) property in Atlantic City, has an average review of four stars on TripAdvisor. Caesars, Golden Nugget, Resorts, and Harrah’s additionally have achieved at least 4-star ratings.

Saturated Market

The opening of Hard Rock and neighboring Ocean Resort led to Atlantic City casinos collectively winning more GGR in July and August than in the previous year. Total gaming revenue, which includes online win and sports betting income, surged nearly 13 percent in July to $302 million, and more than 24 percent in August to $303.9 million.

However, the seven casinos not named Hard Rock or Ocean Resort all kept less money during the two summer months than in 2017. Competition is fierce, especially as winter approaches and fewer guests travel to the beach town. 

“The new casinos have added competition and it has been a good thing for visitors,” New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chair James Plousis said in August. “Market adjustments were expected and will continue as each casino works to attract new customers and build their market share.”