ATLANTIC CITY — The thwack of hammers and the whine of power saws are vying for attention with the beeping of slot machines and the clack of the bouncing roulette ball at many Atlantic City casinos this spring as the gambling halls spend millions on updating their properties.

The projects come as the gambling industry anticipates a busy summer with pandemic fears lessening and the casino industry seeing its business increase.

Hotel room makeovers, casino floor redesigns, new restaurants, and swimming pools are all being built this spring, with more to come later in the year.

Part of it is the usual upkeep that casinos do to gain or maintain market share, but this year the investments are particularly important as casino executives expect a banner summer with people becoming more used to living with COVID-19.

Atlantic City Casino Projects
Workers building an outdoor beer garden at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, NJ (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
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“The fact is that we're still in a recovery mode from the coronavirus pandemic; our businesses are still not at the revenue levels of 2019,” said Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts casino. “What will help is reinvesting in the product. A lot of places are spending real money on projects this year."

The rooftop swimming pool at Resorts is being redone to make it fully enclosed but with a retractable roof and panels so that it can be open on warm days and heated on colder ones. It should be ready by late June.

The casino also is investing $5 million into new table games and slot machines, remodeling its high-limit slots area, and creating a new VIP Asian-themed room.

“We’re excited for summer in Atlantic City,” said Bill Callahan, general manager of the Ocean Casino Resort, which will roll out $100 million worth of new amenities between May and October of this year.

Atlantic City Casino Projects
Workers building an outdoor beer garden at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, NJ (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
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Ocean is finishing 12 floors of hotel rooms that were never completed when the casino first opened as Revel in 2012. At least some of the rooms are expected to be ready by July. And Ocean is redoing its sportsbook in the center of the casino and adding a new casual eatery.

Callahan said his casino has experienced “a surge in demand” since last year.

“That demand, combined with decreased travel concern regarding the pandemic and impending shore tourism, will create great energy and volume for our resort and the entire Atlantic City market,” he said.

The U.S. casino industry as a whole is off to its best two-month start in history, winning nearly $9 billion from gamblers in January and February, and casinos want to be ready for the expected surge this summer.

“There are nine different casinos here that people can choose, so you have to stay competitive,” said Michael Monty, general manager of Bally's, which is spending $100 million over five years to bring what for years had been Atlantic City's poorest-performing property back to relevance.

Their latest projects include a rotating 360-degree bar and an indoor-outdoor beer garden. They also are redoing 750 hotel rooms.

Hard Rock will spend $20 million this year on renovations including adding 70 slot machines and seven more table games; renovating its convention space, beach bar, and employee areas.

Caesars casino will start work this year on a new theater and resident show due to open in the first quarter of 2023. The project will incorporate the facade of the former Warner Theatre from 1929, which is currently part of the casino’s exterior facing the Boardwalk.

Also planned for Caesars in 2022 is a new restaurant, opened by a hospitality company involving actor Robert De Niro that also will renovate hotel rooms there. Caesars Entertainment is partnering with Nobu Hospitality for a project to be called Nobu Hotel Atlantic City.

They're not ready to reveal specifics, but Tropicana expects to add eight new food and beverage outlets this year and Harrah's will open three casual dining outlets.

And a non-casino hotel is spending big this year, too. The Showboat, a former casino, is building a $100 million year-round indoor water park next door. And its Lucky Snake arcade is adding an indoor go-kart track that should be open in May.

The Borgata and Golden Nugget declined to comment for this story, but Borgata said it will announce one or more projects later this year.

School aid for all New Jersey districts for 2022-23

The state Department of Education announced district-level school aid figures for the 2022-23 school year on Thursday, March 10, 2022. They're listed below, alphabetically by county. For additional details from the NJDOE, including specific categories of aid, click here.

Every NJ city and town's municipal tax bill, ranked

A little less than 30 cents of every $1 in property taxes charged in New Jersey support municipal services provided by cities, towns, townships, boroughs and villages. Statewide, the average municipal-only tax bill in 2021 was $2,725, but that varied widely from more than $13,000 in Tavistock to nothing in three townships. In addition to $9.22 billion in municipal purpose taxes, special taxing districts that in some places provide municipal services such as fire protection, garbage collection or economic development levied $323.8 million in 2021.

These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions: