Drinking, dancing, leisurely days at poolside and some fireworks at night.
That, essentially, is what will be new at Atlantic City casinos this summer when they roll out a series of entertainment-themed attractions headlined by Margaritaville’s debut, which began with a soft opening this week.
After an autumn ruined by Hurricane Sandy, followed by a dismal winter, the casinos want to show that Atlantic City is ready for fun again starting Memorial Day weekend.
The new restaurants, bars, nightclubs and poolside party hangouts that will make their grand opening over the holiday weekend underscore how the gambling industry continues to morph into more of an entertainment industry.
With slot machines and table games now common at casinos across the Northeast, Atlantic City is busy adding an array of nongambling amenities to distinguish itself from the competition in surrounding states.
Memorial Day serves as the traditional kickoff for the peak summer season, so some of the casinos have pushed hard to have major new attractions ready to tempt the tourists.
Margaritaville’s low-key “soft opening” is today — although its slots parlor has already opened — but a splashy grand opening ceremony will be held Thursday. The centerpiece of the project is Buffett’s LandShark Bar & Grill stretching 200 feet out over the beach, where the old Steeplechase Pier once stood in front of Resorts.
Much like Resorts, the $2.4 billion Revel megaresort is also counting on new attractions to revive a money-losing property. Earlier this month, Revel opened a $3 million high-limit slots lounge and VIP club to begin building the summer excitement. Revel’s Memorial Day celebration will include a fireworks display Friday night and the weekend grand opening of its HQ Beach Club.
Jeffrey Hartmann, Revel’s interim CEO, said the new attractions are key parts of the casino’s bankruptcy restructuring under new ownership.
Revel will also be in position to capitalize on its beachfront this summer, Hartmann noted. Much of last summer, Revel’s sandy stretch was crowded with heavy construction equipment and gigantic boulders for a state Department of Environmental Protection beach-replenishment project. The beach is finally clear, allowing Revel to better promote itself as a casino resort.
The HQ Beach Club, in particular, blends in with Revel’s upscale resort image, Hartmann said.
“This will be as nice or nicer than anything in New York or Las Vegas,” he asserted.
The beach club is a partnership between Revel and Angel Management Group and EMM Group, the creators of the casino’s HQ Nightclub. It will offer a day-to-night party experience in tandem with the HQ Nightclub. Revel is promising its guests an ultra-luxe, Boardwalk-level pool that will be one of the city’s premier daytime party scenes. Music, bars, cabanas and private bungalows will add to the party vibe.
Atlantic City’s casinos have learned from their Las Vegas counterparts that pools, nightclubs and other nongambling attractions can be great profit centers. Another emerging trend in Atlantic City, also copied from Las Vegas, is the blending of casino games with nongambling amenities to create a hybrid attraction. Golden Nugget Atlantic City will take that concept to a new level with its Haven Nightclub coming Memorial Day weekend.
The high-end Haven will separate itself from other Atlantic City casino hotspots by being the first to combine a panoply of gambling — slot machines, blackjack tables and roulette — with the nightclub experience, Golden Nugget says. The Haven’s gambling-nightclub action will spill out on to a covered outdoor area called the Veranda.
“We are excited to bring a new type of nightlife experience to Atlantic City,” said Gregg Coyle, Golden Nugget’s vice president of entertainment and nightlife. “It is what the contemporary nightclub customer expects ... which is why clubgoers come to Atlantic City.”
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Tropicana Casino and Resort, and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel said they don’t plan to open new attractions for Memorial Day weekend. Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s corporate office in Las Vegas said it was unaware of any new attractions coming up for the holiday weekend at the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat sister casinos in Atlantic City. Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., owner of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, did not respond to requests for comment.
Casinos annually contribute $30 million to a private organization, the Atlantic City Alliance marketing coalition, for advertising campaigns and community projects that help draw tourists to town. On Memorial Day weekend, the alliance will unveil its latest 3-D extravaganza to illuminate the facade of Boardwalk Hall, the city’s sports and concert arena. Dubbed “Boardwalk Beat,” the nightly show, which is free to the public, will combine music, lights and special effects.
“We expect people to be dancing on the Boardwalk,” said Jeff Guaracino, a spokesman for the alliance.
Guaracino said Boardwalk Hall’s 3-D show gives the city yet another major attraction for the summer. He predicted a bustling season, assuming the weather is favorable and the economy remains steady.
Tourists may also have pent-up demand to spend money and take vacations following the slowdown caused by Sandy, Guaracino added.
“I think there is a curiosity factor, with people coming back to the shore,” he said, alluding to the possibility of a belated post-Sandy surge in business.
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