Hard Rock and Ocean Resort casinos are both open for business in Atlantic City.

Hard Rock Ocean Resort Atlantic City

With Hard Rock and Ocean Resort up and running, Atlantic City has nine casino floors. (Image: Amy Rosenberg/Philadelphia Inquirer)

The former Trump Taj Mahal and Revel were scheduled to open on Thursday, but surprised Boardwalk pedestrians by opening their doors on Wednesday after receiving the go-ahead from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) to commence full gambling operations.

DGE Director David Rebuck said Hard Rock’s gaming license became active at 3 pm ET, and Ocean Resort could turn on their slot machines and start dealing cards at 5:45 pm. Both Boardwalk properties wasted little time in doing just that.

“We are open for business and everyone is welcome right now,” Ocean Resort CEO Frank Leone told the Associated Press. Hard Rock officials said the casino floor was rather busy considering the surprise kickoff.

Ocean Resort opened with sports betting, becoming the second Atlantic City casino after Borgata to operate a sportsbook.

Here Goes Everything

Atlantic City is now a nine-casino town. It had 12 gambling floors in 2014 before five casinos closed between that year and the fall of 2016.

The 2014 closures of Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel, Trump Plaza, and 2016’s Taj Mahal was labeled as a “right-sizing” of Atlantic City by analysts and casino operators.

Caesars closed the Showboat despite the casino remaining profitable in an effort to reduce competition. Boyd President Keith Smith, whose company in 2015 still controlled a 50 percent stake in the Borgata with MGM Resorts, said the closures “helped stabilize the operating environment.”

Now, roughly three years later, Atlantic City is increasing its competition by 28.5 percent. It comes at a critical time.

The seven casinos are 4.3 percent short in terms of gross gaming revenue (GGR) through May 2018 compared to the same period in 2017. That’s a loss of nearly $46 million.

Hard Rock says it’s not betting on gambling but entertainment. The resort that pays homage to New Jersey rock ‘n’ roll history begins its concert schedule with Carrie Underwood (June 29) and Pitbull (June 30).

Ocean Resort has a goal of becoming the people’s casino where everyone from casual gamblers to high rollers are catered to. The resort is welcoming smokers, but also marketing towards families with such attractions as Cereal Town, an eatery featuring cereals from around the world, and the largest indoor TopGolf Swing Suite.

Rooms Booked

Hard Rock and Ocean Resort have collectively spent close to $1 billion in reimagining the two casinos. To warrant such investments, Atlantic City will need to see an increase in visitors.

This weekend, the town seems poised to welcome more guests than normal. Underwood’s Friday show is sold out, and limited seats remain for Pitbull on Saturday.

Hard Rock, Ocean Resort, Borgata, and Golden Nugget are all sold out this weekend.

Resorts, which typically demands the cheapest rate of the seven casinos, is subsequently ballooning its weekend fares. The Boardwalk property quoted a two-night stay at $1,357.22 (including taxes, fees, and resort fee).

Caesars has rooms for $538 a night, as does Bally’s ($410), and Harrah’s ($406).