ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Do not pass the casinos if you want to collect $200— or more.
That's the new marketing mantra in the nation's second-largest gambling market.
Atlantic City is using life-sized promotions exhibits capitalizing on its first-in-the-nation Boardwalk to try to drive new business into its casinos, where patrons can also lose $200 — or more.
Bally's Atlantic City has constructed a large outdoor replica of the Monopoly board, complete with oversized dice, green houses, red hotels and game pieces such as the silver car. Tourists are encouraged to walk on it, and many stop to take photos on or in front of it.
"You hear all your life about how Monopoly is based on Atlantic City and you play the game all your life, and now we're actually here, on the real Boardwalk!" said Shirley Theal of Niagara Falls, Canada. She and two traveling companions were walking on the Monopoly board Tuesday morning in between a casino jaunt and a boat ride to see dolphins.
"It's the perfect spot for it," said Pat Wilson, also of Niagara Falls. "It's a lot of fun."
Of course, the main goal is to get more people to come into the casinos and gamble. Don Marrandino, eastern division president of Caesars Entertainment, which owns four Atlantic City casinos including Bally's, said it has seen an uptick on Boardwalk foot traffic into the casino since the Monopoly board went up Sept. 1. The board is tied in to a Monopoly-themed promotion inside the casino in which players club members collect game pieces for a shot at $500,000.
"We're getting a great customer response to it," he said.
France Duff of Welland, Ontario, Canada, gambled for a while before strolling around the Monopoly board, which she seemed to enjoy just as much.
"I'm really impressed," she said as she walked on squares including the Reading Railroad, Jail (Just Visiting), and Baltic Avenue. "I love everything out here: the sounds, the sights, all the people here on the Boardwalk."
As any Monopoly player can tell you, Boardwalk and Park Place are priciest real estate on the game board. The real-life game board is located, not coincidentally, at Boardwalk and Park Place.
A bit further south on the Boardwalk is a life-sized replica of the storefronts that appear in the hit HBO series "Boardwalk Empire." The series depicting Prohibition-era Atlantic City begins its second season later this month, and Atlantic City has created several promotions to try to capitalize on the nationwide publicity the show is generating for the gambling resort.
The façade project was the brainchild of Pinky Kravitz, the legendary local radio host, newspaper columnist and tireless Atlantic City booster, who was looking for a way for tourists to connect present-day Atlantic City with the fictionalized 1920s version they see in the TV show.
"I saw the show and I went to the set in Brooklyn where it was filmed, and people were always asking me, 'Why didn't they film it in Atlantic City?'" he said. "It's because this is 2011 Atlantic City and they needed 1920s Atlantic City. It's not the same as what was in the show.
"I woke up from a dream one night and a voice said to me, 'Build a façade,'" Kravitz said.
Convinced that if he built it, they would come, he set out to raise the $20,000 in private funds needed for the exhibit, which has become a popular photo-taking spot in what previously was a barren stretch of Boardwalk.
"The show is one of the best HBO shows of all time, and it's all about Atlantic City," Marrandino said. "These are iconic things that are based right here in our resort, and they've become really good tourist attractions." -- (AP)
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — New Jersey officials say a wide-ranging effort to improve Atlantic City is starting to pay off, from new private investment in non-casino attractions to a $20 million advertising campaign that's beginning to change negative perceptions about the seaside gambling resort.
Speakers at an Assembly panel hearing Wednesday said the state's efforts to improve public safety, cleanliness and economic development in Atlantic City are bearing fruit more than a year after Gov. Chris Christie's administration adopted a plan to rescue the struggling resort.
"Our key audience — fun seekers — is starting to associate Atlantic City with more amenities," said Jeff Guaracino, chief strategy officer with the Atlantic City Alliance, the casino-funded marketing arm of the resort. Three months after the "Do AC" advertising campaign was launched, research showed audiences in New York and Baltimore had better perceptions of Atlantic City, viewing it as "less run-down" and more appealing as a vacation site, he said.
John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, cited new private investment like the $35 million Margaritaville development at Resorts Casino Hotel, and a new Bass Pro Shops outlet approved Tuesday for the city's shopping district. The agency recently opened a new parking garage in the mall area, spent several million dollars on equipment for a light and sound show at Boardwalk Hall, and plans to lease vacant lots for community arts projects.
Tourism district employees, in their almost-visible-from-Mars neon yellow shirts and jackets, can be found throughout the Boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue areas, picking up garbage, cleaning sidewalks and giving directions to tourists.
And the region's golf courses announced a new joint marketing effort on Wednesday, aimed at competing with other, better-known golf markets.
The success or failure of these efforts will go a long way toward determining whether New Jersey eventually allows casino gambling in other parts of the state. Christie says the reforms need a few years to succeed.
Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton College, said efforts to change Atlantic City's image are in their infancy, but show promise.
"The Atlantic City Alliance is in the early phase of re-educating regional markets that Atlantic City is about much more than gaming," he said. "Ironically, the more casino gaming spreads like weeds, the more Atlantic City stands out as a unique destination because of its concentration of entertainment amenities and seaside location.
"The key strategic challenge that remains is enhancing Atlantic City's value as an entertainment destination in the dense and relatively high net worth mid-Atlantic market," Posner said. "In my opinion, continued focus on public relations, targeted advertising and image building will bear fruit."
The city still has significant challenges, including an escalating homicide rate (15 killings so far this year, surpassing the total for all of last year) and pockets of poverty in residential areas not far from the casinos.
"If we want to get people to visit, we need to continue to do all we can do to create an enjoyable experience," Palmieri said. "We've been meeting with some success in a tough environment. This has been a tough four to five years for the nation. I like to think we're well-positioned."
Atlantic City has lost 6 million annual visitors since 2006 as neighboring states add casinos.
"We need more new visitors, and our current visitors to come back more frequently," Guaracino said. -- (AP)
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Union pickets could be going up soon outside the newly opened Revel casino, even as the $2.4 billion month-old resort tries to build its business before a grand opening on Memorial Day weekend.
Three major labor unions, including the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers, announced Monday that they'll press to unionize workers at Atlantic City's newest casino.
The unions are joining with Local 54 of the Unite HERE union to start a unionization drive at Revel, whose dealers, hotel workers, beverage servers and others are not represented by a union.
Local 54 has repeatedly clashed with Revel over tax subsidies that the casino has received, as well as four or five-year term limits it has imposed on many customer service jobs.
Revel, which opened earlier this month, is Atlantic City's 12th casino. It has reached pacts with some other unions.
"Revel wants to open a non-union casino in the midst of a union town, and destroy the standard of living that generations of workers have walked picket lines and gone on strike to achieve," said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54. "That is unacceptable and impossible for us to ignore."
The casino said it is working on a proposal to let its workers decide whether they want to join a union.
"Revel has received a proposal from the three unions to hand Revel professionals over to these unions without an election," it said in a statement. "Such a proposal is hardly fair to Revel's professionals. We feel strongly that we need a progressive, non-adversarial approach that would take our professionals into account first and foremost by making sure that they would have a truly fast and easy way of deciding whether or not they wanted to be represented by any union. Revel's approach would guarantee Revel professionals an un-coerced freedom of choice."
Spokeswoman Maureen Siman said the casino cannot yet discuss the details of its planned proposal.
McDevitt said pickets and other demonstrations outside Revel are a real possibility.
"How much disruption there is depends on whether Revel is willing to participate in a cooperative relationship with the unions like all the other casinos in Atlantic City do, or whether they want to have a fight to the death," he said. "We don't picket our friends."
Revel has signed a memorandum of understanding with skilled tradesmen including carpenters, painters and operating engineers. But McDevitt said that agreement covers only about 100 workers out of 5,500 Revel employees.
The unions are also particularly angry over Revel's first-of-its kind policy limiting workers in jobs including dealers, beverage servers and bartenders to no more than four or five years before having to reapply for their jobs. The casino says the rule is needed to prevent workers from becoming burned out and unresponsive to customer needs.
The UAW has been organizing dealers in Atlantic City for the past four years. It represents dealers at four Atlantic City casinos — Trump Plaza, the Tropicana Casino and Resort, Bally's Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City.
"It is appalling that Revel has taken hundreds of millions of dollars in state assistance, and then it turns around and institutes anti-worker policies," said Scott Adams, director of the UAW's Region 9 unit that includes Atlantic City. "That is a slap in the face to workers in this heavily unionized region."
Marcus King, president of Teamsters Local 331 in Atlantic City, promised his union will do everything it can to fully unionize Revel.
"Revel's policies of term-limiting service employees and huge use of part-time workers are a direct attack on the labor movement," he said. "We are going to use all the tools available to us to let people know Revel is out of bounds."
The union move comes while Revel is in its so-called preview period leading up to its grand opening over Memorial Day weekend. The luxury resort is being counted on to help revive the sagging fortunes of Atlantic City, which recently lost its rank as the nation's second-largest gambling market to Pennsylvania. -- (AP)
One of America’s most influential musical groups and Motown legends, The Four Tops, will perform in Resorts Superstar Theater in Atlantic City tomorrow night, Oct. 13 at 9 p.m.
In addition to helping shape and define the Motown sound, The Four Tops have been recognized for their groundbreaking efforts with more than 20 Top 40 hits, their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and much, much more in a career that has spanned more than 50 years.
“We met in high school and, at that age, were out to impress the girls. So we decided to sing for them,” says Abdul “Duke” Fakir, one of the founding members of what would become the famous Four Tops explaining their beginnings in the early ’50s in Detroit.
“Levi (Stubbs) was a really good singer so we gave him little push to see what would happen. And there we were, singing our hearts out and falling into harmonic parts and our own little roles. That’s when we decided to form our own group and see what would happen,” Fakir continued.
Originally known as The Four Ames, they eventually changed their name to The Four Tops to avoid confusion with the then popular Ames Brothers.
In the beginning, he says, their thoughts were far from the enormous success they were to achieve. “We had no idea we would become as popular as we did and last this long. But I will say that once we really got together and started singing and eventually hit the stage as professionals, we realized this was exactly what we wanted to do with our lives. That was our wish.”
For the first 10 years of their career, Fakir says the group sang all kinds of songs. “We continued to be very versatile so we could entertain everyone on a universal level, audience of all colors, races, sizes and shapes.”
They were doing all that, as well as covers of other artists, and creating so many kinds of sounds that nobody really knew what to do with them — until Berry Gordy Jr. and Motown came along.
“Motown changed our lives,” Fakir says. “Our first record release, ‘Baby I Need Your Loving,’ just took our breath away. There was just such good production that everywhere we went the world loved us. All of a sudden, everywhere we went we’d hear our music. We’d be driving down the street with the car windows open and hear ourselves singing.”
And from that day in 1964 on, Fakir says it’s been the greatest life anyone could have. “And I’m not talking about money but about the love that surrounded us. It’s been absolutely amazing and I cherish each and every one of the moments I’ve had.”
Today, even though Fakir is the only surviving member of the original group, the existing Four Tops continue to make music audiences love. “But it was hard to continue performing when my first one passed away, when Lawrence Payton passed,” Fakir says. “At that time in my life none of us expected anyone to leave. We were shattered. We really did think about just giving up because we always thought we’d just be together. But after thinking about it more and more, we decided that of course Lawrence would still have wanted us to go on singing, and people would still enjoy our music without him here.”
And they were right. Today, the legend of The Four Tops continues. ”I think it all starts with the music — some of the best ever created,” Fakir insists. “But you know what? We’re just some hard working guys from Detroit. The audiences are the real stars because they pay their wages, they buy our records, they come to the concerts and get up on stage and dance. They show you love. And that’s really awesome.”
For times and ticket information, call (800) 745-3000.
Pennsylvania's casinos recorded their first annual decline in gross revenue from slot machines during the fiscal year that just ended, the latest sign the state's casino business is leveling off after six years of growth.
The state's 11 casinos generated $2.43 billion in gross slots revenue during the fiscal year that came to a close Sunday, down nearly 2 percent from the $2.48 billion generated the year before, according to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board figures released this week. The annual slots decline marked the first such decrease since the state's first casino opened in November 2006.
Before the latest 12-month period, gross slots revenues had increased each year as the state grew into the nation's second-largest gambling market behind Las Vegas, eclipsing Atlantic City for the No. 2 spot. Gross slots revenues began with $454.6 million in fiscal year 2007, built up to $1.4 billion the following year and then hit $2.48 billion in the 2012 period.
But last year, nine of the 10 casinos open for all of both fiscal years reported slots declines as growth slowed. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem was the only one to post a yearly gain, with gross slots revenue up 1.7 percent to $290.9 million from the year before. Valley Forge Casino Resort outside Philadelphia reported $55.9 million in gross slots revenue over the past year, up from $11.8 million the year before, but it opened in March 2012, so figures for the previous fiscal year were only for three months.
Presque Isle Downs and Casino in Erie reported the biggest annual slots decline, down 16 percent to $138.5 million. That casino has been experiencing significant declines since a new casino opened across the state line in Cleveland in May 2012.
Overall, Pennsylvania's casinos have been facing stiff competition from growing casino industries in Maryland, New York, Ohio and Delaware. Just as Pennsylvania siphoned business from Atlantic City when its gaming came on line, it's now feeling the effects of gamblers having new options elsewhere in the region.
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in northeastern Pennsylvania was down about 6 percent, followed by Harrah's Casino Resort Philadelphia, which was down a little more than 5 percent.
Tax revenue from slot machines during the last fiscal year was $1.3 billion, down nearly 3 percent from the year before. The state taxes slot machines at a rate of about 55 percent; the state uses casino revenue to support the state budget, schools, development projects, volunteer firefighting squads, local governments and horse racing.
While slots growth has been slowing, table games, which were introduced in 2010, have still been showing strong growth. The gaming board said it expects to release annual table games revenue figures for the last fiscal year later this month. -- (AP)