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AP: Hard Rock wants delay to start NJ casino

By Wayne Parry

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 10 2012 1:40 p.m. MST

In this Nov. 16, 2011 photo, James Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, speaks after a meeting of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in Atlantic City, N.J. The company wants a 6-month delay in starting its proposed "boutique" casino in Atlantic City under a pilot program that would let smaller casinos to help jump-start the struggling market.

Wayne Parry, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Hard Rock International is asking New Jersey casino regulators for a six-month delay in starting a new so-called boutique casino on the Boardwalk.

The company, owned by the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida, has applied to build one of two new smaller casinos under a pilot program intended to jump-start the struggling Atlantic City market.

Under the plan, they were to put up an initial $1 million payment and apply for a casino license by next Thursday, start work by July 15, and complete the first phase of the project by July 30, 2014. But the company says it needs more time to obtain permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the work, much of which will be done on the beach. Chief among them is a permit under the state's Coastal Area Facility Review Act, governing what can and cannot be built along the shoreline.

The Casino Control Commission is to consider the request for a delay at Wednesday's meeting.

In a petition to the commission, the company, known locally as AC Gateway LLC, says applying for a casino licensing and putting up a $1 million deposit "would be imprudent without first obtaining the requisite CAFRA permit from the NJDEP and other regulatory approvals on which the proposed development of the staged casino facility project depends."

Nicholas Casiello, a lawyer representing the company, did not immediately respond to a message left Saturday at his office. Hard Rock CEO James Allen, and state Sen. James Whelan, who wrote the law authorizing the new smaller casinos, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Saturday.

At an appearance before the casino commission in November, Allen said a musical history museum with plenty of rock 'n' roll memorabilia is a key part of Hard Rock's for a small new casino in Atlantic City. He said Hard Rock owns the world's largest collection of rock memorabilia, and would likely display items from when the Beatles and The Rolling Stones separately played Atlantic City.

The hotel would start at 208 rooms and eventually expand to 850.

The first phase of the project will cost about $465 million. Allen said in November he could not estimate a cost for the second phase, which would conclude with the 850 rooms.

Hard Rock plans to make more use of the beach than any casino ever has in Atlantic City: A pool, a cafÉ for afternoon barbeques and an outdoor entertainment area that could host concerts are part of the proposal.

Previously, New Jersey law required at least 500 rooms. The most successful of the city's 11 casinos have 2,000 rooms or more.

Atlantic City's existing casinos are split on the concept of allowing smaller casinos into the market. Some say the new casinos will bring more people to Atlantic City. But others say it is unfair to those companies that have invested billions of dollars to allow newcomers to enter the market more cheaply.

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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