Extreme Makeover: Casino Edition As Hard Rock Plans To Overhaul The Taj

Jessica Welman Updated on May 13, 2017
Hard Rock NJ casino sale

It could be the flip of a lifetime for Hard Rock International.

After purchasing the shuttered Taj Mahal Casino for pennies on the dollar, the company is investing nearly $400 million in completely renovating the property. Hard Rock is banking on turning the maligned casino into a new high-end destination on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

Built for $1 billion, the New Jersey casino sells for just $50 million

Even though Hard Rock finalized the sale in March, the sale price only became public a few days ago. Paperwork filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicated Hard Rock paid just $50 million for the once-lauded casino.

When now-President Donald Trump built the property in the late 1980s, his company sank $1 billion into the project. Once it opened in 1990, Trump billed it as the eighth wonder of the world.

With such a hefty price tag, it is no wonder the casino struggled financially. Just a year after opening, it executed a prepackaged bankruptcy to keep interests rates low. Nonetheless, the casino was a top performer until Borgata Resort and Casino opened in 2003.

The downturn in the Atlantic City economy was rough on the Taj, though. In 2014, the property again filed for bankruptcy.

That time, Tropicana owner Carl Icahn saved the casino from shutting its doors, at least for the moment. Despite infusing $100 million into the property, Icahn could not fix the Taj either. After a lengthy labor dispute with unions, the NJ casino closed its doors last October.

Hard Rock erasing Taj Mahal’s history with over $300 million in renovations

The sale price was a steal, but Hard Rock is not cutting corners when it comes to renovating the property. During a press conference last month, Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen made that clear:

“If we can’t do it right, we’re not going to do it. Our commitment to Atlantic City has never been stronger, and we look forward to being a catalyst for further growth and development of the area…With the Hard Rock brand and its ability to attract 100 million people on an annual basis, we are very confident that we can grow the market.

I can assure you our marketing plans are not just to take the customers from the existing properties.”

Allen says the company is infusing $400 million total in overhauling the Taj Mahal. The renovation plans include two performance arenas, over 2,400 new slot machines, and relocating the existing Hard Rock Cafe on property to a new location complete with beach access.

The extensive renovations will, as Allen tells it, leave not a single remnant of the original property left once the casino reopens as Hard Rock Atlantic City next summer.

The project should generate 1,000 construction jobs. Then, once the casino reopens, it will lead to 3,000 permanent jobs.

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Image credit: Andy Borysowski / Shutterstock.com

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