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George Goldhoff's new job: Keep Atlantic City's Hard Rock casino running fast

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — It could be said that George Goldhoff, the new president of Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino, has been handed the keys to a smooth-running, high-performance Ferrari that's purring at nearly every turn.

Goldhoff is in charge of one of the market’s top-performing properties. It won nearly a half-billion dollars from in-person gamblers last year, second only to the Borgata.

And Goldhoff says it can be even better. Despite the casino's success in its first five years, Goldhoff says there is not a single aspect of Hard Rock's operations that can't be improved.

“Sometimes the last 10% is more difficult to achieve than the first 90%,” said Goldhoff, who has been on the job for about 60 days. “We have to earn it every day.”

Hard Rock is the renovated successor to the Trump Taj Mahal casino. It opened in June 2018, on the same day as another revamped casino, the Ocean Casino Resort, which is the former Revel casino.

Hard Rock and Ocean, along with the Borgata, are the top-performing casinos in Atlantic City, creating a triumvirate that is increasingly pulling away from the city's other six casinos.

Globally and locally, Hard Rock has built its brand upon the twin pillars of hospitality and entertainment. The company owns the largest collection of music memorabilia in the world, some 84,000 pieces distributed among its hotels, casinos and restaurants. In Atlantic City, Hard Rock will host 27 headliner shows in June alone.

The company is spending over $30 million on entertainment in Atlantic City this year, in addition to $50 million more on the casino floor, hotel rooms and other upgrades.

Goldhoff has some marketing initiatives in the planning stages, and plans to resume the type of community input meetings that Hard Rock hosted before the casino was built.

He is also concerned with improving Atlantic City's safety and cleanliness as it seeks to increase its tourism business, closely echoing the oft-expressed sentiments of Hard Rock's global chairman, Jim Allen.

Goldhoff said Pacific Avenue, the main road that runs along the ocean and on which six of the city's nine casinos sit, poses an opportunity to extend tourist activities beyond the casinos.

“I see Pacific Avenue, hopefully with government and private enterprise working together, to do something new, where this could be more of a walkable city, not just on the Boardwalk, but on Atlantic and Pacific avenues through tourism initiatives that they could participate in,” he said. “It could transform into something where people say, ‘Should I go to Myrtle Beach, Sandestin (Florida), or Atlantic City?’”

Goldhoff has worked in the hospitality industry for most of his life, starting as a dishwasher at age 15 in Balston Lake, New York near Saratoga Springs. He managed New York City's famous Rainbow Room, ran restaurants at the Plaza Hotel, and had management jobs at casino properties in Canada, Tunica, Mississippi and Cincinnati.

Atlantic City “is a hospitality town, and it's been that way forever,” he said. “There is generational tourism in this town.”

He said there are few secrets in Atlantic City about which property offers what.

“You really see your competition here,” he said. “You are one good golf drive away from many of your competitors. Visitors have options, and those options are a stone's throw away from each other. You have to push that customer experience rock up the hill every single day.”

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Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC