Hard Rock Atlantic City Keeps Casino Rockin’ With Stellar Entertainment Lineups

Written By Bill Gelman on August 11, 2022
Hard Rock Live

When arriving at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, it doesn’t take long figuring out live entertainment plays a major part of the property’s identity. The trademark 30-foot-tall Gibson Les Paul model guitar (or one resembling it) right outside the valet and self-parking entrances is a dead giveaway.

So besides offering the typical Atlantic City casino experience, those who frequent Hard Rock  know about the commitment to offering live music 365 days a year. This includes at the Lobby Bar located footsteps away from Elvis Presley’s Rolls Royce and the 120,000-square-foot casino floor.

And the formula is working as Hard Rock’s casino floor revenue ranks No. 2  among AC’s nine gaming halls. Even with high gas prices and inflation factors, Hard Rock continues drawing big crowds week after week. This includes sold-out shows inside of Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena.

Here is a closer look at why the live entertainment, gambling model is a summer hit for Hard Rock AC.

Booking big names at Hard Rock Live Etess Arena

Mike Woodside, vice president of entertainment & marketing for HRHCAC, is the man behind the scenes booking the stacked live entertainment lineup. This includes opening August with a sold-out Alicia Keys weekend. But the multiple Grammy winner is one of big names performing at Hard Rock this summer. Some of the names still to come include:

  • Rod Stewart (Aug. 19)
  • Tom Segura (Aug. 27)
  • Let It Be (Aug. 19-28)

The latter is a Broadway-style show showcasing the music of The Beatles.

It’s hard to forget about Lionel Richie and Andrea Bocelli performing over Fourth of July weekend.

And while there continues to be factors outside of Hard Rock’s control, concert ticket sales are still going strong.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate that the majority of our shows this summer at Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena have been sold out,” Woodside said.

“Our advance ticket sales have been great, but we also see strong walk-up sales the day of show due in large part to all the energy and excitement on property. We offer a broad spectrum of headliner entertainment, and there’s really not one specific genre that is doing better than any of the others this summer.”

Executing the ‘365 Live’ entertainment model

Keep in mind the live entertainment offerings expand beyond the Etess Arena. During a recent Thursday night visit, the Lobby Bar was still hopping as a band was performing its set past 10 p.m. Many of the 2,100-plus slots provided the background music.

Sound Waves, the intimate theater-style venue inside of Hard Rock is where entertainment like “Let It Be,” Frank Stallone with John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band (Sept. 2) and Wanda Sykes (Oct. 8) is booked. However, it doesn’t seat 7,000 people like Etess Arena does.

Additionally, The Lobby Bar and Council Oak, the upscale steak and seafood restaurant, are other spots where bands perform. Plus the Hard Rock Cafe stage includes dueling pianos.

And whether visiting Hard Rock AC to gamble or see a show, it’s hard to miss the large music memorabilia collection, which is one of the largest in the United States. New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi are included (if you time the visit right, you might see Kiss or Prince impersonators walking around).

There is no charge for walking around Hard Rock and admiring the outfits hanging in glass cases.  However, if the blackjack or roulette tables are ice cold, the visit could end up being an extremely costly one.

Woodside said the entertainment planning is built around Hard Rock’s 365 Live model.

“Our team does a great job of creating energy across all of our stages, so whether you’re at Council Oak, Lobby Bar, or Hard Rock Cafe, there are many different music experiences to be enjoyed,” Woodside said.

What about the ‘Beyond Van Gogh’ summer residency at Hard Rock Casino?

So while many people associate the Hard Rock brand with A-list singers, bands and comedians, Hard Rock isn’t afraid to step outside the box.

And this summer is a perfect example. The “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” summer residency continues through Aug. 28. Yes, we are talking the works of the Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch painter who died in 1890.

However, for those thinking this will be like visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you would be wrong. The key word is “immersive” as Van Gogh’s work is brought to life using cutting-edge 3-D technology and music.

So far, Woodside said Hard Rock is really pleased with the way Beyond Van Gogh sales have been trending. More importantly, the team sees it as a “great way of introducing new customers to the property.”

“We’re constantly seeking ways to redefine what entertainment looks like in the Atlantic City market, and we are definitely open to bringing in more entertainment that’s not just music and comedy,” Woodside said.

This includes brining in people like Fanny Curtat, an art history consultant for the Beyond Van Gogh project. During last month’s opening night reception, Play NJ talked to Curtat about how the exhibit appeals to a wider audience.

“A lot of people are intimidated by museums and rightfully so,” Curtat said.

…”It’s really about bringing people in … There is something very playful but there is also the depth of Vincent’s work. So you really mix those two worlds and that appeals to more people.”

How entertainment translates to Hard Rock AC casino floor

Appealing to a wider audience helps bring in foot traffic. Sure, many visitors come to enjoy the shows. Pairing it with a nice dinner at Council Oak or Sandpiper Coastal Bar & Grill and an overnight stay add to the entertainment experience. Those on tighter food budgets have cheaper quick service options like ordering a White House Sub.

However, no matter what the reason is for visiting, clearly many Hard Rock guests also are spending time playing slots and table games. All it takes is one look at the 2022 Atlantic City revenue results to see that the property’s June land-based revenue came in at $44.5 million. And that’s good enough for nearly a 27% year-over-year increase.

Only the MGM-owned Borgata performed better with $54.2 million. However, that number was down 4%.

Keep in mind, these figures do not include NJ gambling revenue from mobile apps like Hard Rock online casino.

So the HRHCAC brand continues to be a hit with the Atlantic City crowd. Even with property president Joe Lupo leaving for Las Vegas, Hard Rock remains in tune with providing AC customers an overall entertaining experience.

Photo by Bill Gelman
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Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman has been reporting on the NJ gambling market since 2018, right around when the Garden State launched sports betting. Bill transitioned from lead writer for Play NJ and NJ Gambling Sites to his current role as managing editor in 2020. Besides offering in-depth analysis on NJ gambling market trends and news, Bill regularly sits down with Atlantic City casino industry executives to offer readers exclusive interviews and comprehensive coverage. Bill received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ithaca College. He has contributed to other Catena Media sites including The Lines, Legal Sports Report, PlayPennsylvania and PlayCanada.

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