Players play penny slot machines at Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City Thursday, Feb 28, 2013. Tropicana has taken down some slot machines in its mall area, The Quarter, because they are underperforming.

Edward Lea

The concept called for turning part of the mall into a gambling hall.

But the idea of placing slots next to shops at The Quarter hasn’t worked out as expected for Tropicana Casino and Resort.

Tropicana removed 16 of the little-used slot machines about three weeks ago from the second floor of The Quarter, next to a row of nightclubs.

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Another 16 slot machines and two electronic table games, near the shops and restaurants on the first level, are turned on only during weekends, when the mall-like Quarter is bustling with heavier crowds, Tropicana executives said. However, the machines likely will be going full-time during the summer season, they said.

Gambling at The Quarter began in late 2011 as part of a new trend by Atlantic City casinos to expand gambling into retail and entertainment areas that traditionally had no slot machines or table games. In effect, Atlantic City created a new type of attraction by melding gambling with shopping, nightclubs and poolside parties.

Harrah’s Resort capitalized on the trend by adding blackjack tables at The Pool, the casino’s dome-covered complex that serves as a swimming hangout during the day and an entertainment hotspot at night.

Golden Nugget Atlantic City put in blackjack tables to complement the casino’s pool and entertainment attraction, known as H2O. Golden Nugget later expanded to add blackjack to an outdoor entertainment spot called The Deck.

Tropicana started modestly with a small number of slots on the first level of The Quarter but added more machines on the second floor last year after being encouraged by strong initial demand.

At that time, Tropicana executives described the transition as a way to take advantage of the large crowds and excitement created by the shopping, dining and nightclub scene in The Quarter.

But now, they acknowledge the venture wasn’t as successful as they anticipated.

“It certainly didn’t do what I thought it would do,” said Tony Rodio, Tropicana’s CEO.

But Rodio said The Quarter’s gambling activity was a “partial success,” not an outright flop. He said the slot machines are humming during the weekends, especially during the dinner rush at The Quarter’s restaurants.

“Those machines do very well during the busy dinner period,” Rodio said.

Steve Callender, Tropicana’s general manager, said the remaining slot machines and electronic table games on The Quarter’s first floor operate only from Friday afternoon to dinnertime Sunday.

Tropicana has taken those machines out of service during slower hours because it saves the casino the cost of having security guards on duty at the same time. No matter how small the crowds, New Jersey casino regulations require security and surveillance while there is gambling going on.

Despite a setback at Tropicana, Rodio and another casino executive indicated they aren’t ready to give up on the idea of mixing gambling with nongambling attractions.

Rodio said Tropicana intends to keep The Quarter’s slot machines operating round-the-clock once the busy summer tourist season arrives. He also raised the possibility of another gambling expansion inside The Quarter now that Internet gambling and mobile gambling have been approved for Atlantic City casinos. He said Tropicana is playing with some ideas but is not ready to announce any details.

“I definitely would not rule out having more gaming in areas that traditionally are not gaming,” he said. “Tropicana, while I’m heading up the company, will not be afraid to try new things.”

At Golden Nugget, the casino plans to bring back blackjack this summer to its outdoor party and entertainment attractions, the H2O pool area and The Deck.

“They did great for us last summer, and we expect them to do even better this year,” said Tom Pohlman, Golden Nugget’s general manager. “Gaming outside like we have is completely different than the environment in The Quarter.”

Representatives of Caesars Entertainment Corp., parent company of Harrah’s Resort, could not be reached for comment about the blackjack tables at The Pool.

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