This summer is pivotal for Atlantic City as it attempts to recoup business lost in the third year of the coronavirus pandemic, and gambling-free casinos and resorts are investing millions in renovations and new attractions to compete for visitors.
Casinos and non-gaming companies are making big investments in what they hope will be a pivotal season with customers more willing than in the previous two years to visit Atlantic City attractions amid the pandemic that is still not finished.
“It’s a really big summer for Atlantic City,” said Phil Juliano, senior vice president of Bally Casino, which opened a 360-degree revolving bar and part of an indoor-outdoor beer garden on Thursday. The projects are part of the $100 million the company is investing in the property.
He said Atlantic City was showing signs of growth at the start of 2020, only to see those hopes dashed by the coronavirus pandemic which shuttered casinos for 3½ months in March and led to operating restrictions for more than a year later.
“It’s been an interesting summer: you’ve got inflation, you’ve still got COVID and high gas prices, but you’ve also got pent-up demand,” Juliano said. “People are coming out again, and we need them.”
Also on Thursday, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small announced the receipt of a $6 million federal grant to rebuild a section of the boardwalk between Florida and Missouri avenues that is more than 100 years old. Work will begin in the fall and end next summer.
Atlantic City’s casino industry is vital to Southern New Jersey’s economy, said Christina Renna, president and CEO of the Southern New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
“As we continue to rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, industry growth and prosperity are more important than ever,” she said.
Atlantic City enters the summer amid encouraging signs — and concerning weaknesses. Collective casino revenues and profitability are up this year, but not all casinos have exceeded the levels at which they were operating in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
The Showboat Hotel, the former casino, will open its $1.5million indoor go-kart track on Saturday, even as it works to build a $100million year-round indoor water park , whose private financing was secured on Thursday, owner Bart Blatstein said.
He said his go-kart course is “another non-gaming amenity in a market where only 8% of visitors are families. It’s a way to conquer a new market.
Resorts is working on a multimillion-dollar renovation of its rooftop outdoor pool, including a retractable roof and party areas that should be ready by the end of June. On Friday, Resorts will open Coral Lounge, a new pop-up nautical-themed bar.
The Ocean Casino Resort is in the midst of projects worth $85 million, including the completion of more than 460 hotel rooms and suites; a new sportsbook and lounge, and several new food and beverage outlets. It will also offer bike rentals outside its main entrance this summer.
Hard Rock will spend $20 million this year on renovations, including adding 70 slot machines and seven more table games; renovate its convention space, beach bar and employee spaces.
Caesars Casino will begin work this year on a new theater and resident show that will open in the first quarter of 2023. The project will incorporate the facade of the old 1929 Warner Theater, which is currently part of the casino’s exterior facing the walk.
A new restaurant is also planned for Caesars in 2022, opened by a hotel company involving actor Robert De Niro who will also renovate hotel rooms there. Caesars Entertainment is partnering with Nobu Hospitality for a project to be called Nobu Hotel Atlantic City.
Tropicana is adding eight new food and beverage outlets this year and Harrah’s will open three casual dining outlets.
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