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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dire straits in Atlantic City prompt mega deals

Atlantic City's newest casino, Revel, is desperate for business. 

Remember Atlantic City? Once the "closeby" destination for gamblers? The proliferation of casinos - including Cleveland's -  has caused a real decline of business from midwesterners and casinos there are going to great lengths to lure them back.

On Sunday Aug. 11 you'll be able to read about my weekend trip with a pair of girlfriends to Borgata, the Atlantic City casino that promised to get us from our Mentor doorsteps to casino resort check-in in three hours. After I wrote about that promise I decided to take them up on it.and then write about the experience itself  for Travel, which is what I did. For me, at least, the time saving promise was the clincher.

Note how few people stroll the Atlantic City's Boardwalk in front of Revel, the newest casino and the one that declared bankruptcy last March.

Borgata is great but it's not on the famous Boardwalk so of course we took a morning to visit it, getting there by a 10 minute jitney that circles among all the properties and costs $2.25 a ride.

We were dropped off near Revel which opened on the northern end of the Boardwalk in April 2012 with an emphasis on luxury, with no smoking, a salt grotto in the spa, celebrity chefs instead of all-you-can eat buffets. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared Revel to be a turning point for the city, with an emphasis away from gambling.

That just didn't happen. Revel lost $11 million in its first year, and declared bankruptcy in March.

 Now folks can smoke there, cafeteria  style restaurants  have been installed and a big sign "Gamblers Wanted" greeted us as we strolled toward the entrance, passing undulating exterior  walls of what appeared to by shiny aluminum.

 Meanwhile. on the other side of the Boardwalk heavy equipment moved on the ocean side beyond newly planted beach grass restoring the beach swept away last year in Hurricane Sandy. Off shore we saw what appeared to be dredging boats scooping sand off the sea floor to put back on the beach.

A sign near the Revel ceiling tells gamblers that slots losses in July will be refunded.

When we went into Revel's  casino the first thing that caught our eyes was a big sign promising to refund any slot machine losses during the month of July. There's a catch, of course.  To get the money back players must lose at least $100 on slots and the refunds will be put on their loyalty cards and doled out over 20 weeks starting this month.  You can get cash back on a loyalty card, but it's easier to put it back into the machines.

Still, the casino floor wasn't nearly as crowded as the huge one at Borgata, where we were staying. Obviously its strategy to provide chartered flights from more distant cities is working.
Roof damage from Hurricane Sandy keeps several oceanside areas closed off the Boardwalk. Note the freshly planted sea grass.
The famous Steel Pier looms over sunbathers on the white sand Atlantic City beach.
Walking south on the boardwalk, we saw storm damaged buildings on at least one of the famous piers and several walkways to the dunes still closed amidst freshly planted grass. I can't say any of us know what's involved, but it certainly seems to be taking a large chunk of time to complete storm restoration to a place that must be a big economic engine for the State of New Jersey.
 Summer is certainly a better season there than winter,  but we were there in mid-July and saw very few other people along the boardwalk -  or even on the wide white sand beach.

Catch Sunday's Travel for more about our visit.

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