New investments

Atlantic City casinos undergoing millionaire renovations amid industry rebound, surge in demand

Reading time 3:57 min

While 2020 represented mostly bad news for the gaming industry at large —and particularly the land-based segment— 2021 was the year of recovery for many markets, including Atlantic City. Casinos in the New Jersey destination posted earnings not only above 2020, but also surpassing pre-pandemic levels, with $766.8 million in operating profit eclipsing the $594 million delivered in 2019. And as the industry rebounds, casinos are now deciding to reinvest, and launch new projects.

Hoping the momentum will extend this year and in the foreseeable future, Atlantic City venues are now spending millions on updating their casino floors and general amenities this spring. As the industry seeks to leave pandemic-related fears and restrictions in the rearview mirror, the city seeks to maintain its status as a gaming and entertainment heavyweight through hotel room makeovers, casino floor redesigns, new food and beverage options, and much more.

Resorts Casino Hotel

“The fact is that we’re still in a recovery mode from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts Casino Hotel, according to an analytical report by the Associated Press. “What will help is reinvesting in the product. A lot of places are spending real money on projects this year.” As they now expect more tourists by next summer, venues are seeking to maintain -or expand- their market share through millionaire investments into their properties.

For instance, Resorts is investing $5 million into new table games and slot machines, as well as remodeling its high-limit slots area; plus the creation of a new VIP Asian-themed room. But non-gaming amenities are also part of the renovation menu, and the resort will be redoing its rooftop swimming pool by late July to make it fully enclosed, but with a retractable roof and panels, which allows it to open on warm days and to heat on colder ones.

Ocean Casino Resort

Ocean Casino Resort does not intend to lag behind, and the property has unveiled $100 million worth of new amenities, to be rolled out between May and October this year, further reports AP. The venue is finishing 12 floors of hotel rooms that were never completed when the casino first opened in 2012 -some expected to be ready by July-, and will also debut a reimagined sportsbook and add a new casual eatery, accompanying “a surge in demand” since last year.

“That demand, combined with decreased travel concern regarding the pandemic and impending shore tourism, will create great energy and volume for our resort and the entire Atlantic City market,” Bill Callahan, general manager of Ocean Casino Resort, said according to the cited source. And that volume might come: the US casino industry is off to its best two-month start in history, with casinos winning nearly $9 billion from gamblers in January and February.

Borgata Hotel Casino

However, investments are not only a viable option to retain a market share within the state and in face of expected surges in demand going forward, but also a reasonable strategy as New York City casinos lurk around the corner. The Empire State approved this weekend plans for three downtown gambling venues, which are set to attract the interest of some of the nation’s largest operators - and additionally result in increased competition in the mid to long term.

Bally’s Atlantic City is also aware of the need to stay competitive, and is spending $100 million over five years to increase its market share. The resort will be rejuvenated through new hotel rooms, a reimagined hotel lobby and a series of brand-new amenities including The Yard -a beer garden-style venue offering gastro-pub menus and live entertainment- and the Carousel Bar, a rotating 360-degree amenity to debut on Memorial Day Weekend.

Rendering for Bally's Carousel Bar

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is also on board with property renovations. “We're looking to ensure that this land-based community here in South Jersey really remains stable,” Hard Rock AC President Joe Lupo, who also has recently been named President of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ), told Yogonet last month in regards to the need of investing in casino properties. “We really need to work together to establish more beautification, a safer atmosphere here, more growth, more reinvestment. And I'm excited about that.” The casino will invest in a series of renovations, including new slots and table games.

Meanwhile, Caesars unveiled last year a commitment to invest $400 million into its Atlantic City resort by 2023, with a master plan including remodeled room towers, new restaurants and amenities. A new theater and resident show are due to make their debut in Q1 2023, as part of a project that will incorporate the façade of the former Warner Theatre from 1929, which is part of the casino’s exterior facing the renowned Atlantic City Boardwalk.

Tropicana Atlantic City did not reveal specifics to Associated Press, but said it would be adding eight new food and beverage outlets this year; while Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City will open three casual dining outlets. Golden Nugget Atlantic City, on the other hand, did not respond to AP and has seemingly made no announcements thus far, which only leaves Borgata Hotel Casino.

While Borgata has yet to make concrete announcements, Travis Lunn, the new President and COO of the MGM Resorts property, said last month the venue is set to revamp its hotel room offering and install new slot machines, among other changes, in an effort to retain its market leadership position. Hotel rooms are set to be a “clear priority”: it’s been 10 years since the casino last redid them.

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