New name for the casino formerly known as the Hilton

FOR THE second time in less than a year, Atlantic City’s western-most gambling den is getting a new name.

What was, for many years, the Atlantic City Hilton—and is currently ACH—will, on March 13 be re-branded as The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel. The change in moniker will be accompanied by a new marketing strategy that will emphasize value over big-ticket amenities. “It is our aim to be the casino for the savvy consumer,” said Michael Frawley, the property’s chief operating officer during a Tuesday morning press conference at the 31-year-old casino-hotel complex.

While the casino’s dining and entertainment strategies will be tweaked in the future, the immediate focus will be positioning The Atlantic Club as the gambling den of choice for people living in a 30-to-40 mile radius. To that end, a 2-for-1 comp dollar plan has been developed with a number of businesses—restaurants and others—in Atlantic, Cape May, and Burlington counties. In addition, the price points at all of the hotel’s seven eateries have been reset to be competitive with the area’s non-casino dining spots. According to Frawley, entrees at the steak house and Asian and Italian outlets will run between $12 and $18, well below the tabs at many other casino restaurants.

Frawley emphasized that “’Local’ is an operating philosophy” and not a geographic one.

Anticipating perception in some quarters, Frawley insisted  the new blueprint should not be interpreted as a move to a “cut-rate” operating agenda. Instead, he said the move is being made to create  a marketing niche occupied by people who are on tight budgets, but still would like to avail themselves of the casino experience.  To that end, The Atlantic Club will be identifying itself with the slogan, “A casino for the rest of us” in order to differentiate it from such high-end Atlantic City operations as Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa and the soon-to-open Revel.

Apart from the March 13 name change, the most immediate difference long-time customers will see will be on the casino floor, where 1,500 slot machines (down from 1,800) and 50 table games (down from 86) will be reconfigured to provide players a more comfortable and convenient environment. Penny machines are expected to dominate the slots inventory while the tables will overwhelmingly boast $5 and $10 minimums (Frawley said some $3-minimum tables will also be in the mix).

The new game plan comes in the wake of recent moves that eliminated the long-struggling property’s $360-million-in-arrears mortgage and added some $24 million in capital-improvement funds.  While the current agreement to keep the casino-hotel open only runs through Oct. 31, Frawley adopted a “What me worry?” attitude when asked about the deadline, and said decisions won’t be made with that as the primary consideration.

The Atlantic Club will be the sixth name hung on the building since it opened in 1980 as the Steve Wynn-built Golden Nugget (now the name of the casino that used to be Trump Marina). In 1987, it was sold and renamed Bally’s Grand. Since then, it has also been known as The Grand and Atlantic City Hilton. The latter name was discontinued last year when the casino’s licensing deal with Hilton Hotels was terminated by the lodging chain. ACH has been used since then.