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Atlantic City Bets on Glitz

29 August 2003

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – As reported by USA Today: "Bob Boughner glides across the marble floor of this town's first billion-dollar casino, ticking off the things that set it apart.

"For starters, there's the row of showy restaurants run by celebrity chefs from New York and Philadelphia. And there's the arcade of glitzy shops (Rolex anyone?). There's also the so-New York, so-L.A., so-not-New Jersey bars and nightclubs. Not to mention the swanky spa, with 22 treatment rooms spread over an entire floor.

"…Atlantic City is going Vegas.

"…Indeed, anybody who's been to Las Vegas recently will recognize the formula, down to the leggy `Borgata Babes' offering drinks on the casino floor. Upscale and chic, Borgata clearly is designed to appeal to a broad and sophisticated audience — one that goes far beyond the day-trippers who are the bulk of visitors here.

"But of course, this isn't Las Vegas, where sunny skies and over-the-top resorts long ago won over the vacationing masses. This is, ahem, Atlantic City, the East Coast's long-down-on-its-luck gambling haven, a place that hasn't been known as hip and happening for half a century.

"…Borgata, the city's first new casino in 13 years, is at the center of a $2 billion makeover of this no-frills oasis for gambling junkies, one that local officials and casino owners hope finally will put it back on the national map of cool.

"…Still, can Atlantic City really pull off the Vegas vibe? It's sure trying its darnedest. The same night Borgata opened, the Sands casino rolled out its own homage to upscale chic, a lounge called Swingers. Bally's recently unveiled a hipster's hangout called Blue Martini. And three other casinos, Caesars, Trump Plaza and Hilton, all have added outdoor bars on the beach (a first for the boardwalk-lined town) that are turning the waterfront into one big party zone.

"There's also a flurry of hotel construction and retail development that will have longtime visitors doing double takes. New towers with 500 rooms apiece are rising at Tropicana and Resorts, two of the town's older casinos. And more than 70 shops, restaurants and nightspots are opening along The Walk, a redevelopment of an eight-square-block section of the city that has been an eyesore for years.

"…But Atlantic City, of course, does have something Las Vegas doesn't have — a beach and boardwalk, both of which seem to be making a comeback…"

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