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"The best days in Atlantic City are ahead of her": NPR



Guests visit the Ocean Resort Casino on the opening day on the north side of the Atlantic City Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Thursday.

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Guests visit the Ocean Resort Casino on the opening day on the north side of the Atlantic City Boardwalk at Atlantic City, N.J., on Thursday

Michelle Gustafson for NPR

Legendary Gambling Destination Atlantic City, New Jersey, is once again trying to become a place to do more: attend a convention, attend a show, visit a spa, hang out on the beach and enjoy a good meal.

The goal is to attract more tourists – and their dollars. The city also wants to create jobs for thousands of unemployed after five casinos have been closed in the past four years.

Guests enter the escalator for the opening day of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday.

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Guests are coming down the escalator on Thursday, the opening day of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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The biggest signs of this re-make strategy are two new-opened casinos.

After the Trump Taj Mahal left the business in 2016, Hard Rock International spent more than $ 500 million to turn the dusty 1980s-style space into a trendy, rock-and-roll resort.

Before the official opening of the Hard Rock hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Thursday, an actor helps entertain the crowd.

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Before the official opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on Thursday, an actor helps entertain the crowd.

Michelle Gustafson for NPR

The opening event took place in a concert hall on the casino. There were firecrackers, smoke machines, acrobats, fire artists and the promise of a bright future.

"We believe in Atlantic City, we believe in the state of New Jersey, and we truly believe the best days in Atlantic City are ahead of it," said Hard Rock International chairman Jim Allen to a cheering crowd.

The company says 50,000 people have applied for nearly 4,000 vacancies. Many of them are represented by Unite Here Local 54. President Bob McDevitt says the last decade has been tough on local workers.

"In 2006, we had about 15,000 members, today it's around 10,000," says McDevitt, adding that he sees growth for his union in the future.

Left: A dancer dances during the official opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Thursday. Right: Visitors cheer for the opening ceremony on the opening day of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday.

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Left: A dancer dances during the official opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Thursday. Right: At the opening ceremony on the opening day of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday, guests cheer at a performance to

Michelle Gustafson for NPR

Just off Hard Rock Resort's boardwalk is the former Revel Casino – a 47-story building that closed just two years after it was built. Now it's called the Ocean Resort Casino.

On the opening day in Atlantic City, New Jersey, visitors stand in front of the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. on Thursday.

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On the opening day in Atlantic City, New Jersey, visitors stand in front of the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. on Thursday.

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It includes a 7,500 square foot sports betting area and bar that are lined with large televisions. A US Supreme Court ruling issued bans on sports betting in most states last month.

Ocean Resort Casino owner and chair Bruce Deifik says Atlantic City already has 24.5 million visitors a year, but hopes for new amenities and events.

Stone Harbor, New Jersey-based Caroline Neill stands for a portrait on Pacific Avenue in downtown Atlantic City, New Jersey on Thursday. Neill, who regularly comes to Atlantic City for modeling jobs, believes the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino will be a success.

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Caroline Neill of Stone Harbor, New Jersey, is on Thursday for a portrait on Pacific Avenue in downtown Atlantic City, New Jersey. Neill, who regularly comes to Atlantic City for modeling jobs, believes the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino will be a success.

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"The question is, can we and the other real estate in the city transfer this figure to 30 million people? I think the answer is yes," says Deifik.

Without a big boost of new tourists, some fear that the new resort casinos could end up poaching only outside the existing casinos in the city.

Left: A family strolls Thursday at Ocean Resorts Casino on the north side of the Atlantic City Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Right: A house stands on the north side of the Atlantic City Boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey on Thursday.

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Left: A family walks on Thursday at the Ocean Resorts Casino on the north side of the Atlantic City Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Right: A house stands on Thursday on the north side of the Atlantic City Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Michelle Gustafson for NPR

"There are a few of them who are just on the brink, if they lose a significant amount of business … we could lose two more over the winter," says Roger Gros, publisher Global Gaming Business magazine

Talk to tourists on the boardwalk of Atlantic City about whether the city's strategy will work, and the conversation often turns to Las Vegas, which has already broadened its focus beyond gambling.

A man passes by the southern end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk at Gentlemen's Club.

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A man arrives at the southern end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk at the Horse Gentlemen's Club

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"Vegas has a lot more shows and, you know, you can do stuff every night, there are shows everywhere," says Melissa Rainwater. She visited Arkansas.

The new resorts also promise more shows in Atlantic City. Hard Rock plans to have a show every day, some with big names like country star Carrie Underwood and rapper Pitbull.

Beach-goers take a shower on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday.

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Beach-goers take a shower on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday.

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"It's not Las Vegas yet, but in due course, who knows?" says Kariem Mahone from the north of New Jersey. He says a draw Atlantic City has that Las Vegas is not the beach. He hopes that this will make the city a success.

The local casino business has already begun to improve ahead of this new strategy, according to a university monitoring Atlantic City's casino business.

The boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Thursday.

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The Promenade in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday

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"Last year, casino revenue grew 1.6 percent," said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. And he says that hotel and entertainment revenue has also increased.

Now many will see to see if Atlantic City will pay off in the long run a strategy of focusing more on gambling.


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