Atlantic City loosens its stodgy image

Mar 30, 2004 7:28 AM

Times they are a-changing in Atlantic City and the city’s newest property, the Borgata Casino Resort, is contributing to the emerging image.

In its early days, Atlantic City’s Boardwalk casinos attracted mostly slot players that were described as female and in their mid-50s, who drove or took a bus to their favorite property where they would sit for hours shoving coins into the one-armed bandits.

But, according to the casino operators, the town is now seeing a resurgence in table games thanks to a greater number of younger people who are being attracted to the New Jersey shore. The addition of the $1.2 billion Borgata, jointly owned by Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) and MIRAGE RESORTS Inc. (MGG), has played a significant role in attracting the younger element, officials say.

Also being credited with the movement toward a young player, described as being in their 20s and 30s, has been the rising popularity of poker and television shows such as World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour.

New Jersey gaming regulators still acknowledge slots as generating about 70% of the city’s gaming revenues, noting that there are 42,016 slot machines in use in the city. However, they have been seeing an increase in table game revenue, possibly signifying a return to their previous popularity.

One of Atlantic City’s better known chroniclers of gaming activity, Michael Pollock, publisher of the Gaming Industry Observer, feels that the legalization of slot machines at racetracks in nearby states, will fuel additional interest in the casino’s table games.

He recently was quoted as saying, "Borgata has shown that tables can still be a growth area, that the prevailing wisdom wasn’t particularly valid any longer."

Playing a major role in the development of younger customers has been the Boyd Gaming representative, Robert Boughner, who is Borgata’s chief executive. He says that he made a special effort to recruit the younger element by offering such things as headliner entertainment, beer in bottles rather than paper cups, and the Las Vegas-styled "Borgata Babe" cocktail waitress.

The property also has devoted more floor space to its table-game area.

Whether the trend will continue is still unknown, but it has been noted by gaming observers that more efforts have been seen at properties such as Caesars Atlantic City, the Showboat on the Boardwalk (owned by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.) and at the Harrah’s property near the Borgata, to cater to those who favor traditional table games.