Hard Rock Atlantic City ups its high-roller game for 2024; Tony Orlando to say ‘farewell’ at Resorts
In his classic 1977 film, Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, suggests that a relationship is like a shark: It must keep moving forward or it will die.
Well, it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest this holds true for casinos as well. Regardless of whatever prior level of success a gambling den has achieved, resting on laurels can be detrimental, if not fatal; there has to be forward motion. And “move forward” is definitely on George Goldhoff’s “to-do” list.
Goldhoff is president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, AyCee’s largest adult playpen. During a recent interview, he outlined some of what is in store for his property in 2024.
While the cultivation of what are known in the vernacular as “high rollers” has always been part of the Hard Rock game plan, Goldhoff described what appears to be a greater emphasis on the luring and maintenance of the highest of high-end players.
For starters, there is the recent reopening of nine ultra-luxe suites on the 39th, 40th and 41st floors. The most noteworthy aspect of the four-month renovation project is the creation of two units—4,000 square feet and 2,600 square feet—out of what had been the two-story Maharajah Suite. Another lure for the highest rollers will come in ’24.
“We bought a beautiful, brand new helicopter, which we’ll be keeping in Atlantic City,” he said. “It’s 26 minutes from here to the West 30th Street helipad in Manhattan. We will be bringing our players back and forth from there, from Philadelphia, from the Hamptons, from Stanford, Conn., from all over.”
The above additions, he added, go hand-in-hand with the November debut of the casino’s high-limit slot parlor whose machines, Goldhoff proudly noted, paid out some $20 million in its first three weeks of operation.
Lest anyone fear the Rock is squeezing out its less-affluent guests, Goldhoff, who was named president last January, was quick to point out that top-tier players comprise but a small fraction of his gambling den’s customer base. As he put it, while “we're gonna be in [the high-end] game, that game is 10 percent of our business. The other 90 percent is the steak; up there is the sizzle.
“We are not the Four Seasons, we are Kimpton Hotels,” he continued, “we're one level down.”
Most important, at least as far as the Hard Rock brand is concerned, is the continued dedication to presenting entertainment in a variety of venues, from the 7,000-seat Etess Arena to various bars and restaurants. While the casino remains locked into second place behind Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in terms of revenue, it has become clear the Big B has ceded its position as the city’s show business leader to the pleasure dome that spent 28 years operating under the Trump Taj Mahal banner (beginning in 1990).
Goldhoff said he expects his 2024 entertainment budget to be “in the same zip code” of last year’s—around $30 million. But there will be a noticeable change going forward: Expect fewer headliners in the 1,300-seat Sound Waves theater relative to previous years.
According to Goldhoff, the level of talent that has traditionally been booked into Sound Waves has not been as big a draw as expected. Instead, he promised, “We’ll be leaning more into the Etess Arena,” which regularly attracts some of the biggest national and international tours—and gives fans the chance to see top-shelf acts in a space a half-to-a-third as large as other venues that host that caliber of performer.
Also absent from the Sound Waves schedule will be the Sunday-afternoon production shows that have been a staple there for years.
Goldhoff is enthusiastic about smaller-scale additions and adjustments to the entertainment scene at his joint.
“We're looking to improve our Lobby Bar, where people go to dance,” he offered. “We'll make that a little bit more, I would say, exclusive; not more expensive, but, a better environment to relax in. And we're, investing in our restaurants.”
Goldhoff is especially high on a new wrinkle in entertainment programming. “We're going to get into, we'll call it the nightlife business. Not the nightclub business, but nightlife, where we're going to have a more-boutiquey ultra-lounge. It will be a bit of a surprise. We'll open it in May.
“We're getting more into that nightlife business so people have the opportunity to enjoy something after they've attended [a headliner] show.”
Another element of the expanded-nightlife blueprint is the Friday-and-Saturday, post-dinner activity at the popular Council Oak steakhouse that begins next month. “We have a stage there and we have entertainment that goes from 10 until midnight,” said Goldhoff, who added there will also be a limited, late-night menu.
Also on the 2024 docket is the full rollout of the Unity player-rewards card, which will allow customers to avail themselves of benefits at Hard Rock casino outlets around the country.
Despite all of these plans, Goldhoff takes the most pride in Hard Rock’s ongoing engagement with the Atlantic City community at-large. While all of the casinos donate money and resources to a variety of programs and causes, the casino’s corporate parent, Hard Rock International, has as its slogan, “Love All, Serve All.” It’s a charge Goldhoff and his people take seriously—witness the casino’s recent “12 Days of Giving” charity program: A wide spectrum of non-profit organizations including the Community Food Bank of South Jersey, Salvation Army, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and the Chicken Bone Beach Historical Society shared in $100,000 provided by Hard Rock.
“Our commitment to the community has been unwavering and that's a big part of what Hard Rock does in every location,” he said. “And we're going to continue to support the community in 2024—even more than we have in 2023.”
Orlando swan song at Resorts
The bad news is that Tony Orlando, who has been an AyCee headliner for some four decades (and who is one of show business’ true “good guys”) has announced his retirement from performing. The good news is that the guy who (along with his two co-stars in Dawn) topped the charts in the 1970s with hits like “Candida” and “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole’ Oak Tree,” isn’t calling it quits without one last visit to town.
Orlando, who turns 80 in April, will perform March 16 at Resorts Casino Hotel. It will be a “full-circle” moment of sorts as the first legal casino east of Nevada was where he made his local gaming hall debut in 1983.
Orlando’s final gig is set for March 22 at Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn.
For tickets, click here.