Hoping to create a younger vibe and mesh the burgeoning Internet gambling industry with its casino property, Bally’s Atlantic City is unveiling more than $1 million in improvements to its Wild Wild West casino as it opens up parts of the gambling floor that had been shuttered for a decade.
The overhaul, which the casino has quietly worked on for months, brings a new focus to the Old West-themed segment of Bally’s, where gambling had dwindled as the casino focused on other areas of the property.
That’s no longer the case, said Kevin Ortzman, senior vice president of Bally’s, Caesars and Showboat. With $1.2 million, the property has torn out walls and storage space and replaced it with a “Party Pit” for live entertainment and dancing. Guests following a walkway past the entertainment area are led to the casino’s new World Series of Poker-branded poker rooms, roughly doubling the casino’s poker tables.
The move is also a first for the city, as Bally’s looks to physically incorporate the recognizable WSOP.com brand offered through the casino’s Internet gambling permit into the brick-and-mortar property. Forty-two tables are being installed in a standard poker room and a separate high-limit room, where the WSOP branding is prominently displayed among other memorabilia. The rooms, which will open Thursday, will offer Wi-Fi and charging devices that allow players to engage in online and live play simultaneously.
“Let’s not dance around the continued decline of the industry,” Ortzman said. “We had to do something to stand apart from other properties, to differentiate ourselves. We also can’t be narrow-minded and think that our competition is just Atlantic City, when it’s broader than that.”
As Bally’s, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., works to stand out from other properties, it will reopen the Pacific Avenue entrance on Monday. The entrance located at a faux boulder formation has been closed since late 2011, as management sought to concentrate guests in more active parts of the property. Now, the entrance will be used as a selling point for poker players, giving them direct access to the poker rooms without having to navigate through the casino floor.
“Poker players like convenience. They don’t want to have to walk very far,” said Freddie Niceta, vice president of table games for Caesars’ regional properties.
The renovations will replace the property’s current poker room on the sixth floor of the property. The space can expand to 80 tables for tournament play. Bally’s will host the Tournament of Champions circuit event in May and has plans for other events, Ortzman said.
Meanwhile, the new Party Pit area closer to the Boardwalk will host live entertainment from Thursday to Sunday and will add energy to the casino floor, where another 12 table games have been added, officials said.
“The days of gaming-centric players visiting Atlantic City have passed,” Ortzman said. “We have got to provide a variety of reasons for people to come here. Whether the theming helps us, well, the jury is still out on that. It certainly differentiates us, and we’re going to do what we can with that.”
Caesars Entertainment owns four Atlantic City properties — Bally’s, Caesars, Showboat and Harrah’s. The company also teamed with Tropicana Entertainment Inc. to buy the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel out of a bankruptcy proceeding earlier this year. Caesars now owns the shut-down casino but has no plans to operate it.
State Sen. Jim Whelan has been critical of the company, saying it plans to impose deed restrictions that will keep Atlantic Club from ever reopening as a casino and give Caesars a monopoly in Atlantic City. The company has not commented on the situation.
Ortzman meanwhile touts Caesars’ investments in the city, saying it’s investing in both nongambling development with the ongoing construction of a conference center at its Harrah’s property while upgrading its gambling space in Bally’s.
The company largely kept its plans for the Wild Wild West casino under wraps while undergoing a publicly announced $5.6 million renovation of the gambling floor of its main casino floor at the Boardwalk and Park Place. The upgrades are the first the property has made since 2008, when a $60 million room renovation took place in the Dennis Tower.
The renovations to Bally’s main floor, which include new carpetings, chairs, restructuring of table games and more accessible signage on slots, were formally unveiled earlier this week.
High-energy games, such as craps and big six, which had been buried, were brought to the center of the floor and are hoped to become focal points, Ortzman said.
“We’re building it, and we hope they come,” he said.
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