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Inside Gaming: Hard Rock Targets Next Memorial Day for Atlantic City Open

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  • The clock is ticking: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City to open in less than a year.

  • MGM International loses lawsuit vs. Connecticut; Amaya/The Stars Group eyeing India market.

This week's Inside Gaming shares even more concrete news about the planned-for opening of the new Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City, tells of MGM International's failed lawsuit versus Connecticut, reports on Amaya's interest in India and relates the story of a million-plus dollar slots winner in downtown Vegas.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City to Open Memorial Day 2018

Those visiting the famed Boardwalk in Atlantic City have no doubt noticed the conspicuously darkened doors of the once proud Trump Taj Mahal, closed since last October. In March of this year came news that Hard Rock International had agreed to purchase the property, and when the deal was finalized in April the new owners' announced intentions to reopen by the summer of 2018.

This week more specific news was shared by the Press of Atlantic City, namely that the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is now aiming to open by Memorial Day weekend 2018 (May 26-28).

Demolition will begin in July and new construction in August explains Joe Emanuele, Senior VP of Design and Construction for HRI. Along with investors Joe Jingoli and Jack Morris, Hard Rock International now plans to spend $500 million to renovate and rebrand the property.

A total of $375 million had been mentioned earlier as the cost to reopen. Original reports of the sale had suggested Hard Rock International had paid $300 million for the Trump Taj Mahal. However filings made public in early May showed the price tag to have been only $50 million.

"The revamped property will offer poolside and restaurant gambling, skill-based slots, fantasy sports betting and hidden VIP rooms," details the Press of Atlantic City.

The project is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs plus another 3,000 permanent positions going forward. The city remains optimistic about what the new property will bring, with Mayor Don Guardian calling it "an important project for us."

MGM Loses Appeal in Connecticut Lawsuit

On Wednesday the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a Connecticut judge's ruling to dismiss a lawsuit brought by MGM Resorts International against the state claiming a competitive disadvantage, reports MassLive.

MGM had charged the state was unfairly favoring its two federally recognized tribes — the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans — by having "created a special registration pathway" for them "to build casinos on non-tribal land."

But the ruling against MGM characterized such fears as overly speculative.

"A purely abstract competition, based only on MGM's expression of 'interest' and some preliminary studies, without any concrete steps toward a bid for a Connecticut casino, is insufficient," explained the ruling.

A representative of MGM responded to the ruling by reiterating that the company was "undeterred in our goal of having the opportunity to compete in Connecticut."

Meanwhile, just over the state line in Massachusetts construction continues on the $950 million MGM Springfield resort casino, prompting the Connecticut tribes to continue to consider plans to construct a new casino in the northern part of the state in order to compete.

Amaya Looks to Enter Fast-Growing India Market

On Wednesday Bloomberg Technology reported that PokerStars owner Amaya Inc. has plans to enter what has been described as the "fastest-growing smartphone market" by starting services in India along with a local partner.

With 1.2 billion mobile users, India is a "booming country" according to Amaya CEO Rafi Ashkenazi following an annual meeting in Montreal. "We want to be there in time and we want to make sure that we are, as usual, the market leader when it comes to poker."

"While India... has a lack of legal clarity" when it comes to online poker, explains Bloomberg, "some states have given licenses to online poker companies [contingent] on [companies successfully] classifying their products as 'games of skill.'"

The international auditor KPMG has speculated that the online gaming industry in India will increase to $1 billion by 2021.

Last month Amaya announced during its first-quarter financial report an intention to change its name to The Stars Group Inc. Shareholders approved the change just this week, which will take effect in August. The company's headquarters will also soon relocate from Montreal to Toronto.

El Cortez Slots Player Wins Seven-Figure Prize

Finally, if you love playing slots and are in Las Vegas, you might consider a trip over to the El Cortez Hotel and Casino located downtown on Fremont Street.

As reported by KTNV, last weekend someone playing a Big Bang Theory slot machine put in $20, then on an initial $2 spin hit it big, winning a $1,149,718 jackpot.

"El Cortez is famous for having the loosest slot machines in Downtown Las Vegas," said Adam Weisberg of the El Cortez. "But $1,149,718 is huge even by our standards!"

Regarding the reputation for the slots at El Cortez, KTNV adds that CDC Gaming Reports has certified the casino as having "the loosest slots in town."

The small, historic casino first opened way back in 1941. Unlike most casinos in Las Vegas, the El Cortez still offers coin-operated slot machines.

Photo: "Hard Rock Casino - Las Vegas" (adapted), Mark Richardson, CC BY 2.0.

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