'War at the Shore': Borgata and Hard Rock face off over entertainment
There’s a war brewing at the shore this summer, and it has nothing to do with professional boxing or mixed martial arts, two sports that have used the “war at the shore” expression on more than one occasion to promote an event.
Nope, this is a good old-fashioned entertainment war, which have broken out sporadically throughout the 40 years casinos have been operating in Atlantic City.
Although no one will come out and publicly admit that the two casinos – one that leads the market, the other that’s about to open – will duke it out for show business supremacy this summer, the proof is plainly visible online, on highway billboards, and in newspaper and radio ads and online.
In one corner, celebrating 15 years as the city’s top-grossing casino, is Borgata, which has always had an aggressive entertainment program in its two venues, but is raising the bar even higher this summer.
Across town, in the other corner, is the new kid on the block, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which will open June 28. It’s already announced more than 60 shows it will present in its 7,000-seat Hard Rock Live Etess Arena and in its 1,500-seat venue known simply as The Theater.
Borgata, which has mostly relied on artists playing one-night stands, has several major artists playing multi-day gigs in its 2,400-seat Event Center or 1,000-seat Music Box, most of them on weekends.
Hard Rock, which has developed its own network of loyal entertainers at its venues around the world, will be living up to its pledge to offer more entertainment by presenting midweek and weekend shows.
Borgata, now fully owned by MGM International, is no slouch in the relationship department, either. As an MGM property – one of the world’s largest hospitality and gaming brands – it, too, has its own cadre of big-name artists on whom it can rely.
The first skirmish in the battle between the two properties came when Hard Rock announced it would present Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons for two nights July 27-28.
Some might wonder what all the fuss is about. Valli, 84, has been playing Atlantic City’s casinos since year one in 1978.
But for the last 10 years, Valli has been singing his stacks of golden wax exclusively in Borgata’s Music Box, usually for two- or three-night gigs. And every show was sold out, so jumping ship to Hard Rock is a big deal.
In addition to being a one-time hit-making machine in the 1960s and 1970s, Valli has a track record for bringing in gamblers. Kids who listened to the Four Seasons hits in the early- to mid-1960s when they were in their teens and early 20s are now in their 60s and 70s.
That’s a desirable casino demographic because those fans are now either retired or approaching retirement and may have a little disposable income to throw down at the tables and into the slot machines.
So Hard Rock luring a performer like Valli to its casino is considered a big deal.
But Borgata isn’t rolling over. Even when it wasn’t competing with Hard Rock, it still had the bar raised above the other properties in town because of the caliber of stars it would attract.
This summer, Borgata is upping the ante by presenting A-list artists for multi-night gigs. It’s even taken the unprecedented step of signing one of the nation’s top comedians, Sebastian Maniscalco, for a 10-show gig June 22-24 and June 29-July 1.
Other stars Borgata has booked include Ringo Starr, who performed last night in the casino’s Event Center and added a second and more intimate show tonight in its Music Box.
Singer and songwriter Barry Manilow, who hasn’t performed in Atlantic City for six years, will play two shows in the Event Center on July 6-7.
Pop singer Britney Spears, fresh off a long residency gig in Las Vegas, will bring her Pieces of Me Tour to Borgata for three shows July 19-21.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld returns to Borgata for two nights July 27-28, while singer and actress Cher, now on the road with her Classic Tour, will make a two-day stop at the Event Center August 17-18.
And rounding out the season for Borgata is the legendary Stevie Wonder, who has a deal to do an exclusive mini-tour of MGM properties and will bring his “Stevie Wonder Song Party: A Celebration of Life, Love & Music,” to the Event Center Aug. 25-26.
Other stars set to perform multi-night shows at Borgata include comedians Dave Chappelle (July 1), Fifth Harmon’s break-out star Camila Cabello (July 30), Kings of Leon (Aug. 5) and Earth Wind & Fire (Sept. 2).
The Hard Rock, which is undergoing $500 million in renovations and rebranding to erase any traces of the former Trump Taj Mahal, is tapping its roster of headliners to present a demographically diverse lineup that should have broad appeal.
Two A-list artists will grace the stage of the expanded Hard Rock Live Etess Arena on opening weekend.
On June 29, one night after the casino hotel opens, singer Carrie Underwood will get her name in the history books by becoming the first headliner to play the new property.
The following night, rapper Pitbull will play the big room.
Other headliners appearing in either the arena or The Theater include comedian Howie Mandel (July 3-4), Third Eye Blind (July 5), comedian Jon Lovitz (July 5), rocker Ted Nugent (July 12), The Stone Temple Pilots, The Cult and Bush (Aug. 1), popular area favorites Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (Aug. 4), the Million Dollar Quartet (Aug. 11), comedian Amy Schumer and Friends (Sept. 1) and more.
Expect both Borgata and Hard Rock to add more artists before the season is over. Hard Rock chairman, president and CEO Jim Allen said during an April press conference that the company’s Atlantic City property intends to present entertainment in one of its venues 300 nights a year.
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