A New Jersey state bill that would permit smaller casino hotels to be built in Atlantic City was introduced Monday by the gaming destination's former mayor Jim Whelan, who is now a state senator. The current size minimum for gaming properties is 500 guest rooms; under the new legislation, properties must have at least 200 rooms. Among firms that have expressed interest since the law was introduced is Hard Rock International; after the legislation was introduced, the company announced a strategic alliance with Och-Ziff Real Estate to explore developing a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. "We are intrigued by the newly proposed legislation, which makes entering the marketplace more manageable, and we are encouraged by Senator Whelan's efforts to spur new development in Atlantic City," said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, in a statement released yesterday. The project would be located on a beachfront parcel at the intersection of Albany Avenue and the Boardwalk. Its first phase would feature a gaming floor, a luxury hotel, dining and entertainment venues, and a beachfront pool and spa. Preliminary estimates of the cost of the project's first phase are in the $300 million range, not including the cost of the project site.