Casino File: Hard Rock Atlantic City bets big on Keys, Bocelli, NKOTB, Van Gogh; ‘Dollar dogs’ at Live! Philly
This summer, the name of the game at Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City is “Something for Everyone.”
That’s because the casino-resort that marks its fourth anniversary this month has put together the most eclectic entertainment schedule in recent memory if not in the 44-year history of legal AyCee casinos.
To be sure, pop music, the bread-and-butter of the Hard Rock brand, is still the main draw: Among the headliners due there between now and Labor Day are Lionel Richie (June 24); New Kids On the Block (July 3); Toby Keith (July 31); Alicia Keys (Aug. 6) and Rod Stewart (Aug. 19).
Also on the boards (through Aug. 7) is the popular “80s Live” revue that has been packing the SoundWaves theater every Sunday for several months, while comedy will be represented by, among others, heavy hitters John Mulaney (June 17 and 18) and Kevin Hart (July 8 and 9).
But it’s the off-the-beaten-path (for a casino, that is) attractions that separate The Rock from its competition. For starters, there’s opera titan Andrea Bocelli, who performs at Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena June 25. Then there is arguably the most unusual Atlantic City gaming hall offering since 2001’s “Torture Through the Ages” exhibition at what was then called Tropicana Casino Resort (today, it’s Tropicana Atlantic City).
That would be “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” the internationally acclaimed, interactive exhibit that allows visitors to get a three-dimensional, 360-degree view of some 300 of the legendary 19th-century master’s paintings.
In addition, an announcement about at least one Broadway musical is expected, although as this was being written, nothing had been made public.
So what’s behind this wide-ranging entertainment philosophy at Hard Rock? According to the executive who oversees the gambling den’s entertainment programming, the variety of bookings stems from a mandate to expand Hard Rock’s rock-and-pop-heavy strategy.
“I think our leadership, starting with Jim Allen [the Atlantic City native who serves as chairman of Hard Rock International, the property’s corporate parent] wanted to really focus on Hard Rock as an entertainment brand,” offered Michael Woodside, the casino’s vice-president of entertainment and marketing.
“It's more than just music. It's more than just one genre. So we look at ourselves more as an entertainment company. And I think that changes the way you look at programming. So we do want to make sure that we've got something for everyone.
“If you look at our customer base – people coming from Philadelphia, North Jersey, New York – it's a very diverse audience. And so we want to make sure that we do have something for all those different people.”
Woodside is particularly excited by the Van Gogh exhibition, which runs July 8 through Aug. 28 in the Seminole Ballroom.
“It's just something different for Atlantic City,” he said. “Again, it's another way for us to evolve what entertainment means for Atlantic City itself. But it's going to be a great exhibit. There's about 30,000 square feet [in the Seminole Ballroom]; Van Gogh’s art kind of comes to life around you.
“We're expecting about a hundred thousand people to show up to that event through the course of the summer. It’s another great way to get people to come to Hard Rock who normally wouldn’t.”
As for the Bocelli date, Woodside considers it an extra-special booking not only because of the tenor’s status as a vocal giant, but because of where the concert is being staged.
“Andrea Bocelli is obviously such an iconic name; it’s going to be an amazing performance. We're very lucky to have him play at Hard Rock because of the size of our venue,” he said.
“He can go to a stadium in other areas, but the fact that he's playing here in front of 5,000 people, I don't know when else you'll have that opportunity to see someone of that caliber in such a small intimate venue. I think it's going to be such a great experience for our customers to be exposed to that.”
Doggin’ it at Live!
Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia is offering a little ballpark ambience with a “Dollar Dog” special during every Phillies home game.
The discount dogs are available at Sports & Social, the South Philly gaming hall’s sports book as well as the Center Bar. And speaking of dogs, some of the proceeds from the sale of said franks are earmarked for two Philly animal shelters: PSPCA and PAWS.