CasiNotes: Caesars AC antes up to get back in the game

Robert DeNiro’s hospitality operation is part of the plan to return the casino-hotel to prominence

Digital rendering of a resturant
Rendering of Hell’s Kitchen Atlantic City Photo: Caesars Atlantic City.

It’s an irrevocable fact of casino-industry life: If you want to sit at the table with the big players, it’s going to cost you. And that is just fine with the folks at Caesars Entertainment Inc.—and, more specifically, those who run the company’s namesake Atlantic City property.

Caesars Atlantic City—the second-oldest legal gambling den east of Nevada—was, for a quarter-century or so after its June, 1979 opening, one of the town’s signature casino-hotels. Its glittering, gilded mid-Boardwalk complex—themed in the now-iconic Roman Empire motif—attracted A-list entertainers as well as the well-heeled gamblers who came to see them perform (and—at least theoretically—drop huge amounts in the casino).

But for a period of 10-15 years beginning early this century, the former owners of the gaming hall’s corporate parent, Caesars Entertainment Inc., apparently lost interest in the property: Hotel rooms weren’t modernized, public spaces were permitted to get shabby-looking, live performances were less-frequent and tended to feature B-list attractions. As such, newer, hipper properties including Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa and, more recently, Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort, left Caesars in the dust.

In mid-2020, Reno, Nev.-based Eldorado Resorts purchased Caesars Entertainment. And after what is assumed to be a thorough review of the gambling chain’s vast (more than 50 casinos) holdings, the new owner is prepared to return Casears AC to its former glory. In all, $400 million has been earmarked to upgrade the Empire’s Atlantic City operations, which also includes Harrah’s Resort and Tropicana in addition to Caesars, which is receiving the lion’s share of the funding.

“Caesars is the flagship brand for us, so the objective is to return Caesars to its premier status as a luxury brand experience in the market,” said Joe Lodise, the adult playpen’s vice-president and general manager. “So, we’re really touching all facets of the operation.”

Headlining the redo is a partnership with Nobu, the New York-based, ultra-high-end hospitality brand beloved of the glitterati whose principals include movie god Robert DeNiro. The construction of a Japanese-focused Nobu restaurant has commenced, with a late-summer debut targeted. And the conversion of the top three floors of the existing Centurion Tower into an ultra-posh Nobu-branded boutique hotel is scheduled to begin in late summer with a hoped-for end-of-year opening.

Already completed is the total renovation of 850 hotel rooms and suites, as well as less-glamorous (and less-noticeable) physical plant upgrades. Also on the docket is the late-summer introduction of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, a new concept from the hot-tempered celebri-chef based on his popular kitchen-competition Fox television series of the same name (the job of the eatery’s head chef is the grand prize for the show’s upcoming season).

While it won’t happen until 2023, the most exciting news may be the announcement that Caesars has enlisted Spiegelworld to devise an original, resident production show for a 400-seat venue that is planned for a portion of what is now the Wild Wild West part of Caesars (it’s the space Caesars kept when it sold adjacent Bally’s Atlantic City a few years ago). Spiegelworld is the company behind “Absinthe,” the wildly successful (and wildly hilarious) adults-only production that has been staged at Caesars Palace on the Vegas strip for more than 15 years.

Lodise noted that the new showroom is expected to include elements of—and pay tribute to–the Warner Theater, a grand entertainment palace that was built on the site during the “Boardwalk Empire” era of the 1920s. The original façade still stands.

As for the existing, 1,500-seat Circus Maximus theater, which has hosted such megastars as Jerry Seinfeld, Barry Manilow, Julio Iglesias, Tony Bennett and Ray Charles, Lodise said he hopes to re-establish the room as a show-biz player.

“I think we’ll continue to look for opportunities to bring in high-quality headliner-type shows,” he offered. “And as the property evolves and grows, and we bring back those customers that have either left the market or left our property, I’m committed to adding more shows into ‘C-Max.’

“That venue is going to be very important to us as we move forward. And I hope to do more shows in there. Right now, we do about 20 shows a year. I’d love to get that up to double, if the market supports it.”

Ocean casino redo ending

And while we’re talking AyCee casino facelifts, the final phase of Ocean Casino Resort’s $25 million upgrade of its casino floor is on its way.

When it opens this summer, The Gallery Bar, Book & Games will provide guests with an amenity-laden gaming-and-partying area. The features of the 12,000-square-foot, bi-level space include:

  • A 100-foot-long, elevated bar with 26 seats and 12 built-in slot machines, 33 drink rail seats.
  • Blackjack and roulette tables.
  • 55-foot, 43-foot and 42-foot LED walls for sports viewing.
  • Six sports-betting stations.
  • A 17-foot open-air staircase that leads to Balcony Bar, a smaller, more intimate drinking spot.
  • Customizable lighting.

Still on Ocean’s agenda is the completion of more than 400 hotel rooms that weren’t part of the casino-hotel complex when it opened as the ill-fated Revel in 2012.

 

 

 

  • Chuck Darrow headshot

    Chuck Darrow has spent more than four decades as a writer and broadcaster specializing in covering the Philadelphia region's arts, entertainment and casinos. He is still afraid he may one day have to work for a living. 

More Popular Articles

Upcoming Philly Events

More Events