Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Will smaller be better for AyCee?

Former Atlantic City mayor and current state senator Jim Whelan has certainly stirred the pot by proposing a bill that would override the 1977 Casino Control Act and allow for up to four AyCee casinos-hotels with less than the currently mandated 500-room, 60,000-square-feet of gaming space minimums.

Will smaller be better for AyCee?

Former Atlantic City mayor and current state senator Jim Whelan has certainly stirred the pot by proposing a bill that would override the 1977 Casino Control Act and allow for up to four AyCee casinos-hotels with less than the currently mandated 500-room, 60,000-square-feet of gaming space minimums.

Whelan and his minions see the change as a way to jumpstart the town's moribund casino industry. Opponents insist more casino-hotels will simply dilute an already underperforming market and add to its woes by likely canibalizing what business remains there.

 And I say they they are both right.

If Whelan's plans simply mean adding another 800 average-style rooms and several thousand more slot machines, then the naysayers are correct. More will definitely not mean better. But recent events suggest the strategy may be correct.

In the wake of Whelan's announcement of his plans came word that Hard Rock International has expressed interest in building a mini-property on the site of what was to be--before the Great Recession kicked in--a mega-resort erected at Albany Avenue and the Boardwalk on the western end of the Great Wood Way . This would be fantastic for the city.

Hard Rock's properties in Las Vegas and, especially, Hollywood, Fla. (which they manage for the Seminole tribe) are spectacular. What's more, the Hard Rock brand is already international, and it has the kind of hip factor that appeals to the 21-35 crowd, an increaingly important demographic for Atlantic City's gambling dens.

The point is that Whelan's bill could mean adding unique destinations to a place that can never have enough of them. If it means adding three or four unique hotel-casinos that will entice new visitors to Atlantic City, then it makes perfect sense. If it means the introduction of several Holiday Inns with slot machines, then why bother?

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