Hard Rock says it will continue to invest in Atlantic City despite concerns

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is not going anywhere anytime soon and will invest more money into its boardwalk facility despite issues the CEO said he has with the city.

During the first of two employee town hall sessions held at the Mark G. Etess Arena in Atlantic City Thursday morning, Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen announced the company would invest $15 million more in capital improvements in 2020 at the hotel and casino. Among the upgrades will be renovations to the ballroom, suites, and adding additional restrooms. The $15 million is on top of the initial $562 million investment in the beachfront hotel. Allen also said despite rumors floating around, Hard Rock is currently not looking at purchasing the adjacent Showboat property.

Allen told employees the company was giving 2,782 full-time employees, union and non-union, a minimum $250 bonus as a way to give back to its employees. The bonuses to be doled out will total more than $2 million. Allen said the bonuses were a way to thank the employees for the job they have done thus far.

“We are going above and beyond and not just giving the holiday turkey, gift cards, and all those things that we do, but we wanted to put cash in their pocket and show them that we are putting our money where our mouth is,” Allen said. “We want to deliver the best product in Atlantic City, and we want them to have the entrepreneurial spirit so that they go the extra step. This is a sign of our thanks and appreciation.”

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming, right, talks to Marcellus Osceola Jr., chairman of Seminole Tribe of Florida, during a town hall meeting in Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in Atlantic City, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020.Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Although the company has invested millions in the resort town, Allen said he wishes the city and state would do more to help spur more growth in Atlantic City, including improved safety and more efficient traffic signals around the resort town.

“Frankly the town’s in worse shape today than it was when we bought the building,” he said.

He noted the street lights have been out for two months on several blocks along Pacific Avenue, a sign of a continuing trend that concerns him.

“When you’re in a resort environment where safety and security is so important, if the city can’t get something fixed as simple as the street lighting, then maybe a change is needed,” he said.

Allen also specifically referenced the state of the properties at the vacant Trump Plaza and Sands Casinos, even suggesting officials use the enforcement of eminent domain to force the property owners to maintain their holdings.

“Carl (Ichan) is worth how many billions of dollars?” Allen asked. “To leave a vacant casino like that sitting, that is a safety hazard with debris falling off the building potentially hurting someone. I do not know why the city and Carl can’t come together. I hear that they are in some form of negotiations. We work with Carl. He and his CEO are fine people, but we do not understand why that building is still there. And rather than finding out what happened at the Sands where it is a field full of weeds and a chain-link fence that looks like it is at a prison, do something to make it at least look nice. Nothing. Nobody does anything.”

The Hard Rock Casino finished with the second highest amount of revenue in both slot and table games, garnering $324 million. The hotel also received $62 million in hotel revenue.