Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Wild Wild West Casino headed for last roundup

It was supposed to be a signpost to the future when it opened in July, 1997. Now, the Wild Wild West Casino at Bally's Atlantic City has no future.

Wild Wild West Casino headed for last roundup

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When it opened in 1997, the Wild Wild West Casino at Bally's Atlantic City, which is reportedly being replaced by non-gaming attractions, was hailed as a harbinger of the future. Photo: http://www.atlanticcitynj.com

It was supposed to be a signpost to the future when it opened in July, 1997. Now, the Wild Wild West Casino at Bally’s Atlantic City has no future.

The space, which boasted a Western motif that included animatronic characters--a gold miner and his donkey--in its Boardwalk lobby, is undergoing a major renovation that will erase the casino and its similarly themed Virginia City Buffet. Corporate parent Caesars Entertainment of Las Vegas has not yet offered details on what will be done with it, but it appears headed in the direction of a dining, retail and entertainment complex that is de rigueur in the modern gambling industry.

“We have been in negotiations with several large, mixed-use developers and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to re-purpose the Wild Wild West space,” Don Marrandino, Eastern Division president of Caesars Entertainment, told the Press of Atlantic City. “Our goal is to transform the space into an entertainment destination featuring well-known brands and popular attractions.”

The demise of the Wild Wild West brings into focus just how much Atlantic City’s casino realm has changed in a decade-and-a-half. When it opened, the gambling hall was hailed by its then-owners as the spearhead of a movement that would ultimately render AyCee the nation’s top casino gaming destination. Its entire marketing strategy was based on the expansiveness of its motif.

It made sense back then; themed casinos were all the rage in Las Vegas, and in Atlantic City Caesars (ancient Rome) and Trump Taj Mahal (the Middle East and India) were among the town’s highest-profile properties. But times and tastes change. With their sleek and modern luxury, Borgata (since 2003) and the newly christened Revel now set the agenda.

With Wild Wild West will go a little piece of local history: It was the first—and remains the only--gambling space that does not share a roof with a hotel tower.

South Jersey joker

With a slightly absurdist point of view and a delivery that ranks with the best stand-up has to offer, Pennsauken native Brian McKim has been sending audiences into hysterics for some three decades.

Because he and his wife, fellow comic (and Philly native) Traci Skene, are now based in Las Vegas, McKim’s local gigs are few and far-between. But you can catch him Monday through Thursday and June 10 at the Borgata Comedy Club. Also on the bill are Rodney Laney and Joey Kola.

Show time is 9 p.m. Admission is $20. For tickets, call 866-900-4849, or go to www.theborgata.com.

Sounds of ‘Summer’ at Valley Forge

Monday, Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia is slated to announce a June 29 performance by Philly-bred harmonists, BoyzIIMen. The gig is the first of VFCR’s planned “Summer in the Valley” concert series, which, we hear, will consist of four or five hot-weather shows in either the adjacent Valley Forge Convention Center or the smaller Waterford Ballroom.

Show time and ticket price are TBA.

Stars under the stars

And speaking of a seasonal show biz slate, Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono, Pa. has announced its own series of outdoor musicales. The “Under the Stars” program features disco dandies K.C. & The Sunshine Band (July 20), R&B crooner Brian McKnight (July 28), country hit-maker Colin Raye (Aug. 17) and classic-rock stalwarts Grand Funk Railroad (Aug. 18).

For details about these and other Mount Airy presentations, go to www.mountairycasino.com.

About this blog
Philly native Chuck Darrow has literally covered Atlantic City’s casino scene since Day One: He was there on assignment the night in November 1976 when voters approved legalized casinos.

Since then, Chuck has covered the town and its gaming industry for several area newspapers -- which is why, in some circles, he’s known as “Boardwalk Charlie.”

You can reach Chuck at darrowc@phillynews.com. Reach Chuck at darrowc@phillynews.com.

Chuck Darrow