A Hard Rock Casino in New Jersey is in the Offing

Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment(SHRE), touted as one of the most influential operators of hotels and casinos, and owned by Florida’s Seminole Indian tribe has announced reviving plans of entering the New Jersey hotel casino business. Last Thursday, the entertainment firm received a Statement of Compliance issued by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission (NJCCC), which embodies the approval to bring the Hard Rock Casino brand to Atlantic City or elsewhere in New Jersey, including the Meadowlands, where SHRE has a 16 percent stake at the Meadowlands Racetrack. SHRE, in fact, acts as the gambling operator of the racetrack with the concurrence of the majority shareholders.

However, since NJ laws stipulate that gambling activities remain confined within Atlantic City, establishing a Hard Rock Casino business beyond NJ’s gambling Mecca entails enactment of legislation for gambling expansion. Nonetheless, it is something that could likely take place, as legislative support for such an initiative has been on the rise in recent years.

The CEO of SHRE James Allen confirmed reports that his company is eyeing Revel Casino as a potential site for a Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City, although he did not disclose specifics about the planned project. He mentioned having conversations with Glen Straub, the controversial stalking horse bidder who eventually succeeded in gaining the right to acquire the financially distraught $2.4 billion Revel Casino, and at his original bid price of $90 million.

Mr. Allen commented that the discussions did not result to any definite agreement, of whether SHRE will enter into a partnership with the Florida-based Revel buyer as a co-purchaser, or as operator of a future gambling facility. He added that they have been mulling on Revel since the project’s inception. Yet, the casino edifice, albeit an amazing one, presents some challenges. He revealed that even before it went under bankruptcy proceedings, SHRE made a previous offer to acquire the high-end casino but was turned down. The CEO of the Seminole-owned entertainment company said they did not submit a bid for the bankrupt casino during the auction sale.

Actually, SHRE had previous plans of entering the Garden State’s casino business back in 2011, as the only state-approved participant to a 200-room boutique hotel-casino pilot project supervised by the NJCCC. The project was in line with a state legislation that amended the erstwhile minimum 500-room requirement to 200 rooms. The initial phase of the project was for the construction of a 200-room hotel casino at the southern end of the city’s Boardwalk at the foot of Route 40; to later expand with 650 more rooms. The initial cost was estimated at $465 million and the construction to have started in January 2013, with a target date of completion set for January 2015.

SHRE though did not push through with the project, citing poor economic conditions, not only in Atlantic City but also on a nationwide scale as the main reasons for backing out of the state-approved deal. Back then, NJCCC Chairman Matthew Levinson, expressed hopes that SHRE would reconsider its decision and return to Atlantic City once market conditions improve. Apparently, a rock-and-roll themed Hard Rock Casino in New Jersey is still regarded as a bankable project on which to pin hopes of reviving NJ’s flailing casino industry.

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