Casinos bet against silent nights

ATLANTIC CITY - Next month, gamblers here will be able to run through the corridors wearing Santa hats while chasing Hooters girls; gaze at four miles of multicolored lights and 100 feet of fake snow, and attend a Sexiest Santa contest.

And that's just in one of Atlantic City's 11 casinos.

It's all part of an effort to keep customers coming through the doors in what could be one of the toughest months in an already bad year for Atlantic City casinos.

The national recession, combined with cutthroat competition from slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York, have taken a toll on Atlantic City gambling revenue this year.

For the first 10 months of the year, casino revenue is down 6.6 percent, and this will be the second year in a row that revenue will be down for the year in Atlantic City, after 28 straight years of increases.

Factor in the need to buy holiday presents, and gamblers figure to spend even less in the casinos in December - if they come at all. Last December, revenue fell 10.6 percent, and that was before the bottom fell out from under the national economy.

"The holidays tend to have many businesses competing for customer attention," said Mark Giannantonio, president of the Tropicana Casino & Resort. "The light show, in addition to our decor, shopping, entertainment and focus on our guests throughout the season ... ultimately will give people a reason to choose Tropicana."

The Quarter, Tropicana's Latin-themed shopping and dining district, will have a holiday musical light show every hour featuring 100,000 lights (stretching for four miles if laid end-to-end).

In addition, seven snow machines will pump out more than 100 feet of fake snow (a mixture of soap and alcohol), and more than 40 miles of wiring is involved.

On Dec. 13, the casino will host the Running of the Santas, part of a nationwide bar tour in which participants don Santa hats, beards and suits, and do their own version of Pamplona's running of the bulls. Only at the head of this race will be Hooters girls.

Trump Marina Hotel Casino is having a $1 million blackjack challenge in which December players can win their way into a $1 million tournament on Jan. 3. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa will invite its best customers for a free holiday party, and another one on New Year's Eve.