At a time when Atlantic City should be pulling out all the stops to bring back the guests that online and Pennsylvania-based casinos have lured away, most casinos are adopting cost-cutting measures that seem doomed to reduce casino attendance even further.

Thousands of casino staff positions have been eliminated, leaving great swaths of the gambling floors cordoned off and lifeless. Restaurants and bars sit empty, while the dwindling number of gaming tables crowd to capacity. Complimentary room offers have dried up faster than a puddle in June. Ditto that for free drinks.

Little by little, these cutbacks are chipping away at the very allure of Atlantic City.

A trip to the casinos isn't just about gambling; it's about taking a break from reality. It's about leaving the drudgery of the every day behind and escaping into a glistening palace of glitz and luxury, where your wants are catered to, and the impossible is a just a spin of the roulette wheel away. It's about the romance of risk and the ecstasy of reward.

More than anything, it's about the experience.

And the experience is exactly what the casinos are sacrificing by cutting corners. The little perks and extras are the core of the Atlantic City experience. If all casino guests wanted to do was gamble, they'd just stay at home, play Texas hold 'em online and save themselves the gas money and tolls. And if the current downturn in casino attendance is any indication, that's exactly what they're doing.

If Atlantic City casinos wish to reverse this trend and see a return to profitability, the only sensible thing to do is a little gambling of their own - by doubling-down and reinvesting in that little something extra that made us all fall in love with them in the first place.

NICHOLAS FONTIEX

Tuckerton