ATLANTIC CITY-A massive casino/hotel property could be in the works for this city, bringing a new name to the casino industry here. According to a published report, Hard Rock International Inc. is close to announcing a $1-billion project for a 20-acre site on the beachfront next to the Showboat Casino/Hotel, joining this city’s 12 other casino/hotel properties.

According to reports, Hard Rock is close to buying a 20-acre site in this city’s South Inlet area for approximately $75 million. A spokesman for Hard Rock declined to comment on the project other than to issue a prepared statement that read, in part, “Hard Rock Hotels, Resorts and Casinos is currently looking at a number of development opportunities throughout the world. As a matter of company policy, we never comment on pending deals.”

The 20-acre site is currently owned by North Beach Holdings LLC and is situated adjacent to that company’s Bella project, a high-rise condominium tower on Pacific Avenue. North Beach Holdings itself consists of a partnership of an affiliate of Scannapieco Development Corp. of New Hope, PA and JAFP Development of Boca Raton, FL. According to reports, Scannapieco Development president Tom Scannapieco assembled the proposed hotel/casino for sale to Hard Rock. Scannapieco could not be reached for comment.

North Beach Holdings itself, meanwhile, has a major mixed-use project in the works for another 20-acre site near the proposed Hard Rock site. Plans filed with this city’s planning department call for more than 400 residential condominium units combined with 25,000 sf of ground-floor retail space. Other details that have emerged about the proposed Hard Rock project are that the hotel/casino would also include a retail component, restaurants, a spa and other amenities. Morgan Stanley has been hired by Hard Rock to underwrite the project’s financing. However, according to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, no entity has yet applied for a casino license for the site.

The proposed casino/hotel comes after a year in which Hard Rock saw its hotel and casino income increase by 65% over the previous year. Hard Rock’s operations, which are part of the Rank Group of London, include three US casino/hotel properties in Las Vegas and Florida. Officials of the company had earlier announced plans to build additional hotel/casino properties in this country.

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