ATLANTIC CITY - Forget all that talk about deregulation, boutique casinos and battling out-of-state gaming competition.
Officials with the resort's gaming halls said this Memorial Day weekend will go down as one of their best ever, attributable in major part to something that has traditionally driven good business at the shore: the weather.
With the sun shining and temperatures in the 80s, casino officials on Monday said plenty of people made their way to the resort. Hotel rooms at some casinos were all booked, shows were sold out, restaurants had lines of hungry customers and business at the beach bars boomed, they said.
"The weather was perfect, and that was a big help," said Mark Juliano, chief executive officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which operates three casinos in the city. "When the weather cooperates, people come. The lure of the Jersey shore for a Memorial Day weekend is pretty powerful."
"We were rocking," said Don Marrandino, eastern division president for Harrah's Entertainment, which runs Bally's Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Resort and the Showboat Casino Hotel. "It was awesome. It was just a great weekend all around."
The good weekend came as a relief to the city's gaming officials, who have seen months of bad news involving everything from falling profits to casinos in other states siphoning away customers who used to come to Atlantic City to play table games and slot machines.
Statistics released by the state Casino Control Commission last month showed earnings at the city's 11 casino hotels decreased by 25 percent for the first three months of the year compared with the first quarter of 2009. The decline was blamed on severe winter weather that included record snowfall and heavy rain, the bad economy and gaming competition from states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Casino officials and state and local government are scrambling to boost the resort's gaming industry.
Memorial Day marks the traditional start of the summer tourist season on which many shore businesses rely. For the city's casinos, it is the biggest moneymaking time of the year.
Juliano said Memorial Day weekend came early in 2009, and the weather was not that good. This weekend was completely different, he said, giving casino operators the hope of better financial times for the summer.
"I have said this all along, that we are going to have a really strong summer," Juliano said. "I think that we all have a little more confidence that the customers will return. This weekend, it's a good indication."
Dave Coskey, vice president of marketing for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, said company officials were "very pleased and obviously hopeful for a good summer to come."
"We had incredible weather at the shore," he said. "When you think back, sometimes we struggle on Memorial Day. You get those chilly days. Could it have been any nicer? I think we're certainly hoping for a good summer."
While the weather played a large part in the casinos' success for the past three days, gaming officials said they also have worked to build their customer base.
"We're dong a lot of things to attract new customers," Marrandino said. "We've got to grow the market. I think that the summer advance bookings are good. We're very optimistic about our summer."
Marrandino said while the weekend was good, the economy still is "goofy," and the resort's casinos should not let up when it comes to attracting new customers.
"We've got the word out that we are safe, fun and affordable," he said.
Maybe this weekend proved that, Juliano said.
"You take each victory as it comes," he said.
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