ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – The last time there was so much hype surrounding the future of this troubled seaside resort, Donald Trump made the bulk of the hyping.
The President, then a casino impresario, opened the Trump Taj Mahal, the largest gambling venue on the boardwalk, with big fanfares and at a cost of $ 1.2 billion in 1990, only to go bankrupt the following year , After years of decline, it was shut down in 2016, seemingly symbolic of the ruinous surplus here during the Trump era.
But now, less than two years later, old Taj, undressed by its false minarets, concrete elephants and other evidence for the name Trump, was reopened as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. On the same day, Wednesday, another failed casino ̵
Both houses then had elaborate openings on Thursday. They were two of the five casinos in Atlantic City that had closed since 2014. Together they will recover about 6,000 of the 11,000 jobs lost during business interruptions.
This revival is taking place as New Jersey casinos change their ways of separating players from their savings in another way: betting on sports events. The Borgata Casino began betting on sports on June 14th and others, including the Ocean Resort, are rushing to install sports books at prominent locations in their casino floors. Adding a popular form of gambling could help attract customers during the dreary winter months.
Overall, this gives more opportunities than many people who live and work here, a few dark years ago, when a state takeover saved the city from a bankruptcy petition.
Although this once-famous Mecca is still far to reverse its fate, some amplifiers are already painting a rosy picture.
& # 39; & # 39; Around us we get glimpses of Atlantic City's future as new buildings open and old streets breathe new life into them, "said Governor Philip Murphy, a Democrat, a luncheon speaker at a recent gaming conference here. Not so long ago – it was not long ago people were writing off Atlantic City, it was over, the economy was dead.
"Now, when people talk about Atlantic City, they talk about renewal, they talk about opportunity."
New Jersey became the second state – Nevada was the first – with a legal casino Resorts International was opened on the Boardwalk in 1978. But a gambling license was not always secure – in a money-making race Trump and his rivals often borrowed more than they could repay
At one point, so small The city had 13 casinos, three controlled by Trump, but each of his properties went bankrupt and he eventually withdrew from the business Eft. Caesars Entertainment, which still has three casinos here, was sank with about $ 25 billion in debt before it went bankrupt in 2015.
Given the city's record, not everyone was won over by promises by casino executives and elected officials It made the same promises for decades, but the city ha s remained dependent on gamblers, though it was long ago its status as the only place in the country that welcomed them outside of Las Vegas , had lost.
The landscape is now littered with casinos, some of which are only a short drive away.
After Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York, casinos have made legal, these states have leached a large part of Atlantic City's life. What was once a stream of more than $ 5 billion in annual sales has been cut in half and not even the most hopeful investors expect a full recovery.
& # 39; & # 39; I believe the gaming market is returning to nearly $ 6 billion in revenue? No, not even close, "said Jim Allen, general manager of Hard Rock International.
Nonetheless, his company and its local partners, the Jingoli and Morris families, have invested more than $ 500 million to turn the locked Taj Mahal into A resort that emphasizes live music and entertainment, Hard Rock's consumer sentiment is that people are looking for Atlantic City to succeed, but they think they've "lost their way," Allen said.
The Last Round of investing in casinos on the boardwalk, he said a watershed for the city.
"If a brand like Hard Rock fails in Atlantic City, there will be an interest to invest capital in this city Allen drops significantly, "Allen said," But if we succeed, then I think the future in Atlantic City is very rosy. "
As far as sports gambling is concerned, Allen said Hard Rock is prepared for a Partnership with a company announce a sports book in the new casino. He said he expected sports betting to boost casinos' profits moderately and attract people to major events such as the Super Bowl.
"It's another positive thing that's happening," he said. "It's another reason to go to Atlantic City."
The owners of the newest boardwalk casino, Ocean Resort, make a bigger bet on sports betting. They turn a bar in the middle of the casino floor into a sports book where fans can watch and bet on games.
& # 39; & # 39; Coming from Nevada, it's hard to imagine a casino without a sports book, "said Seth Schorr, an advisor to Bruce Deifik, the chairman of the casino, in Nevada, the only place in the country where betting on sports was legal before this month, About $ 4.8 billion was spent on sports betting last year, and casinos held about $ 250 million, according to the UNLV Center for Gambling Research.
"You" Schorr said, "Our goal is it
A state lawmaker pushing to New Jersey to legalize sports betting, former Democratic Senator Raymond Lesniak said the big weekends in sports betting occur during months when casinos are much calmer.
& # 39; & # 39; Atlantic City is doing well during the summer but it is starving out of season, "Lesniak said. "During the NCAA tournament, the Super Bowl Week, a major event, you can not get a room in Las Vegas and Atlantic City is a ghost town, which changes with sports betting. & # 39;
In in fact, the prospect of completing past, slow weekends is the real hope among casino operators in Atlantic City, and not the potential tax revenues that would bring sports betting for the state or city.
The greater uncertainty about Atlantic City is, which means reopening two major casinos for the market, will they attract a significant number of new customers to the city, or simply exploit the weaker competitors?
Resorts made less than $ 3 million in profits last year, compared to more than $ 80 million for the Borgata, according to the State Gaming Enforcement Bally's, one of the three owners of Caesars, had a profit of about 2017 $ 8 million.
Those who remember the tasteless tastes of Donald and Ivana Trump from the days of the Taj Mahal will not recognize the place now: in turn, chandeliers that dominate the view as patrons would be the main escalator Driving down to the casino floor has disappeared, displaced by a huge silver illuminated guitar that hangs from the ceiling. Video screens around the escalators play clips from Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Nirvana and Johnny Cash as customers descend into the casino area.
Tom Fortunato from Lynbrook, New York, came to Atlantic City, not knowing that the Hard Rock was open on Wednesday, so he just walked in.
"It looks good," said Fortunato, who said he visited the Trump Taj Mahal "more times than I would like to admit."
"It's unbelievable what they did with it," he said.
One notable thing in the casino's first-ever night: the absence of any noticeable cigarette smell, with the casino only hours old.
"It's really bright and fresh here," said Paul Wolowski of Hicksville, New York. "It even smells good here."