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Hard Rock Gets 6-Month Delay For AC Casino

New Jersey casino regulators agreed Wednesday to let Hard Rock International delay its new “boutique” casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk by six months.

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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 by Thursday, and start work by July 15. But the company says it needs more time to obtain environmental permits for the work, much of which will be done on the beach.

“I wish I could say this project was a done deal; we’re not quite ready to say that yet,” said Nicholas Casiello, a lawyer representing Hard Rock. “We are working hard to bring it to fruition and be successful.”

He told the Casino Control Commission the company is still in the midst of getting a crucial approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection for a Coastal Area Facility Review Act, governing what can and cannot be built along the shoreline.

Thomas Sykes, the project’s architect, said he expects to have differences with the state worked out by the end of April. “There are some aspects of the design where we’re pushing the envelope,” he said. “We knew we were being aggressive; it’s an aggressive brand.”

Hard Rock plans to make more use of the beach than any casino ever has in Atlantic City: A pool, a cafDe for afternoon barbeques and an outdoor entertainment area that could host concerts are part of the proposal. A musical history museum with plenty of rock `n’ roll memorabilia is a key part of Hard Rock’s plan. Company CEO James Allen told the commission in November that 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 commission agreed the delay is reasonable, given that environmental and aviation-clearance permits must still be obtained.

“Adherence to the established timelines is important,” said Linda Kassekert, chairwoman of the casino commission. “However, we are cognizant that with a project such as this — construction and development of a first-class themed destination casino resort — rigid adherence to those timelines could unduly penalize an applicant.”

Hard Rock now has until Sept. 12 to apply for a casino license and post the $1 million deposit. It must start construction by Sept. 11, 2013, and complete the first phase by Jan. 15, 2015, Casiello said.

The first phase, which would cost $465 million, would include 208 hotel rooms. It would expand to 858 rooms in a second phase. No other taker has materialized for the second slot in the pilot program to build new, smaller casinos.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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