Atlantic City is expected to draw its largest crowds in years as two new, monster resorts opened Thursday with a lineup of A-list entertainers.
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, on the former site of the Trump Taj Mahal, opened its doors with a guitar-smashing ceremony. Ocean Resort Casino, at what was formerly Revel, had a ribbon-cutting ceremony shortly after.
“I just want to tell everybody I’m not sure the boardwalk has ever been this busy on this side of town, but that’s about to change,” Ocean Resort CEO Bruce Deifik told reporters and guests at the ceremony.
The opening weekend for both resorts is bringing in some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Michael B. Jordan, Tiesto, Carrie Underwood, Pitbull, Mark Wahlberg, Diplo and Jermaine Dupri.
On Sunday, the city will have its first of three scheduled beach concerts, with Sam Hunt headlining this weekend.
Both resorts are sold out for the weekend, and the city is expecting more than a million visitors this weekend alone, which would be the largest crowd in a decade, said Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business Magazine.
Police said the city is ready.
"So far everything is running smoothly,” police Sgt. Kevin Fair told ABC News. “We will have a contingent of officers assigned to the boardwalk, Pacific Avenue, and around the new casinos.”
“A busy weekend is nothing new to our department,” he said.
The opening of the new casinos come after years of decline in Atlantic City, with five of its 12 casinos shutting their doors between 2013 and 2016.
The new resorts together with the city's having a brand new college campus, of New Jersey-based Stockton University, plus a new state law allowing sports betting, give city officials hope for a revival of Atlantic City's fortunes.
"There's a renaissance; there's a synergy in the air," Mayor Frank Gilliam told ABC station WPVI in Philadelphia earlier this month. Three or four years ago we didn't have this feeling, it was people thinking that Atlantic City was falling in the ocean."
The mayor said the city has added 7,000 jobs after a period in which it lost 20,000.
"Today is the bridge to the revitalization of Atlantic City," Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, said shortly before an opening ceremony Thursday, according to WPVI. "We believe this project will create a new day in the evolution of Atlantic City. We have spent $500 million renovating this building. We promised you we wouldn't just paint it and put up a guitar."
"It signals that Atlantic City is not dead," Gros said. But, the test will come in the fall and winter to see if the momentum is high, he said.
Gaming magazine publisher Gros said the resorts bring options other than casino games, such as over 100,000 square feet of meeting space, which he said is a "crucial" element to helping all the properties in the city succeed.
"Residents and businesses have new hope," Gros said.