City's youth movement
As Reported by The Globe and Mail
CITY, New Jersey - Once a seniors-only haven, the New Jersey
resort town is drawing younger crowds with a new casino, trendy
clubs and beach bars. LL Cool J was playing the House of Blues.
A few blocks away, rapper Jay-Z's new nightclub was rocking. Fredericka
Jones, 42, out on the town for a Friday night with her girlfriends,
was determined to hit both, then try her luck at a casino.
She used to
make the one-hour trip from her Philadelphia home once every couple
of years. Now, she goes several times a year. And she has noticed
is getting younger," she said. "You don't see the older
crowd as much, the grandparents. Now, you see the younger people."
by a saucy new casino, trendy clubs and beach bars and a vibrant
music scene, Atlantic City is evolving into a nightlife hot spot
for people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who once saw it as one big
neon-lit retirement home for senior citizens who arrive by the busload
to play the slot machines.
began making the shift with the opening of the Borgata
Hotel Casino & Spa in mid-2003. It stressed sexy fun more
than gambling in its advertising, it showcased its racy "Borgata
Babes" cocktail waitresses, it offered high-end restaurants,
and it booked contemporary stars into its showrooms, instead of
the aging crooners and nostalgia acts for which Atlantic City was
The moves paid
off, turning the Borgata
into Atlantic City's most profitable casino.
also bet that blackjack, roulette and craps -- which many Atlantic
City casinos were ditching in favour of more profitable slot machines
-- could bring in more business.
Its rivals in
Atlantic City's $5.5-billion-a-year casino business have followed
suit, replacing slots with table games aimed at cashing in on both
a poker boom and on younger gamblers' tendencies to favour games
with human interaction.
are hot, there's no doubt about it," said casino industry consultant
Joe Weinert. "A lot of that is fuelled by poker's popularity
and its popularity on TV, which is showing Americans that table
games in general are fun.
we're becoming a society that has grown up with solitary gaming
experiences on their computers, TV sets or personal game consoles.
And I think people are going to casinos and discovering the community
atmosphere on the gaming tables. They're finding out that, hey,
it's fun to be around real people."
In the 2½
years since Borgata's
opening, the Tropicana
Casino and Resort has seen a 20-per-cent increase in table game
play among under-50 gamblers.
Atlantic City -- which in the past year has booked rapper Snoop
Dogg, opened a trendy Nikki Beach bar and switched its piped-in
house music from Motown to contemporary -- has experienced a similar
shift. Now, 60 per cent of the gamblers in the casino's player database
are under 50, compared with 39 per cent 18 months ago.
Casino-Hotel, meanwhile, brought in the House of Blues, a chain
of restaurant-nightclubs that built a $75-million addition consisting
of a 2,200-seat theatre, a restaurant, 50 hotel suites and its own
mini-casino. Among the acts booked to appear at House of Blues last
month: mewithoutyou, Puny Human and Avenged Sevenfold.
at the list of headliners and I don't even recognize most of these
names," said Jeffrey Vasser, the 45-year-old executive director
of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.
But he isn't
complaining. Nor are the entrepreneurs opening nightclubs, name-brand
restaurants and sexually oriented clubs aimed at the under-50 crowd.
The influx of
younger gamblers has driven down the median age of the Atlantic
City visitor from 55 in 1998 to 52 last year, according to a visitor
profile commissioned by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors
more to do now," said Frank Whoy, 23, of Egg Harbor Township,
who took in the LL Cool J show at the House of Blues. "More
nightlife, more shows."
But the mix
of old and young has also challenged casinos.
is a delicate balance," said Audrey Oswell, president of Resorts
Atlantic City casino. "You don't want to do anything that's
going to offend the older customer, which has been so loyal for
so long. We've found that the young people and the old people can
exist side by side, although we did have some people ask us who
Snoop Dogg was."
Playing a slot
machine at the Tropicana,
Alexander Ott, 73, of Smithtown, N.Y., said Atlantic City is still
"the AARP's playground."
got the time. We're retired," he said. "These other people,
they're only the Friday- and Saturday-night crowd. They're living
paycheque to paycheque. We're living Social Security cheque to Social