An AC Trip Report – A Vote For Spontaneity

The group of us who bring you NETimeGambling.com tend to be calculating in our casino vacation plans. Even our Vegas vacations start with an itinerary for each day that’s followed about 75%. (Except Miguel – he’s more of a “go with flow” kind of guy in Vegas).

So, after the three of us returned from our July FlyBorgata trip to Atlantic City, which we always love (Bread & Butter, Amphora Lounge, & “Human Nature Concert,”  – yahoo!), I was surprised to hear Bert say – “let’s just go back and take advantage of the Tier Matching at Hard Rock and Ocean in Atlantic City!”

Due to a calf injury, I was stuck at Borgata while Bert & Miguel went to see both new casinos, with Bert getting a free room at both.  So we called, booked the rooms and four days later drove to AC – 4 1/2 hours later, we checked into Hard Rock.  Here’s our Trip Report, divided by the pros and the cons in a relatively random presentation.

PROS

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Second Floor escalator looking down toward casino floor. Fabulous digital signage. Courtesy of http://www.downtownmagazinenyc.com

  • Room renovations seem successful, at least from our room.  Check -in was quick and service was friendly and helpful. (See below about getting into our room).
  • Card Rewards Center was very helpful in getting your card and Tier Matching.  My Diamond card from TR boosted me to Rock Royalty, the top tier.  Leap at Mohegan Sun, Platinum at Foxwoods, and Gold at MLife (MGM/Borgata) will also get you there, until Labor Day weekend.  It includes $150 Free Slot Play, 2 comp nights (w/ resort fees), 2 buffets, 2 comedy club Tix (weekend only) and of course line passes, which come in handy at HRC right now because the place is packed at night with card newbies lines getting very long quickly.  The Rock Royalty gets you a visit to the VIP lounge, but it was closed for a private function.
  • REALLY COOL – in most casinos I’ve played in, the PIN number screen is always the same – 1-5 at the top, 6-0 in the second row.  But not at HRC! – Miguel reported that the numbers are randomly different every time you enter your PIN for added security. Love it.
  • Food court is outstanding.  Quite the selections, and good choices without the usual chains.  And they have their own WhiteHouseSubs, a famous locals’ place.
  • Free T-shirt after 1 hour of play – Yahoo.
  • I only played Pai Gow Poker, which is only found in the high limit / Asian Gaming area.  Dealers and Pit were very friendly. Limits start at $20 and includes Fortune side bet.  After 90 minutes of play, I was up $200, and I had the table to myself.  It was a great play.

    Once we got into our room, we liked it.

  • Kiosk for additional cards and the Rewards Kiosks had some problems.  Twice, we had to go back to Rewards Center because promo ticket wouldn’t print.  There are a lot of them around, and were tons of people for the opening, so word was they couldn’t keep up with the ticket paper in the kiosks.  I feel, while it was annoying, it’s understanding that it could occur first month.
  • The entertainment line-up is amazing. And checkout the free bands in the Center Bar Lounge – every time I passed by, I quality of music was outstanding – afternoon and evening.

Ocean Resort Casino

Aerial View of Ocean Resort

  • This place is beautiful and earns the title of Resort. Spacious, with lots of areas to just chill.
  • Free Parking for Everyone – Bravo!
  • This place can just take you away – you tend to forget you’re in Atlantic City (not that being in AC is a bad thing).  The pools, the view, the scent, the casino, the service, and the appearance inside and out makes me feel like I could be in Aria or Cosmo in Las Vegas.
  • Check – in was very smooth, and you receive a nice gift bag with hats and water.  Nice touch.
  • Tier Match from HRC’s Rock Royalty top tier gives your Ocean Black Card.  This includes $100 Free slot play, 2 buffet passes (but no buffet yet), free entrance to Premier Lounge and VIP Lounge in High Limit throughout the day.

    Premier Lounge

  • Food options are good, better than in many Diamond Lounges.  The same menu is served all day.
  • Room was terrific, larger the HRC, and bathroom is 2-sink, large with a shower big enough for an entire basketball team (well, maybe not that big.) Great room, very quiet. Great view of the ocean, too.
  • The highest VIP lounge is small, similar food to Premier Lounge, open later and only open for Black Card members. (Premier is available for Platinum Member with 10 credits.)
  • Casino is spacious, modern with swirling lines of slots and video poker.  Very easy to get around.
  • Video Poker is better than HRC, if you play $1 and up. Full Pay JOB at $1 and 9/6 DDB at $1.

CONS

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

  • When we arrived at our assigned room, we couldn’t get in.  Yes, the key was working, but something I have never seen kept us from getting into the room – the security latch from the inside kept the door from opening about an inch.  After waiting for 20 minutes and two phone calls downstairs for help, I finally had to go downstairs myself.  Again, being friendly usually brings helpful service – no ranting or complaining.  With 5 minutes, we had a new room with a pleasant conversation and my new friend Wes, and we were on our way.
  • Video poker is not a good thing at HRC, period. 8/5 JOB at $1 Level?  C’mon…….
  • The slots areas, which seem to be everywhere, feel a little stifling and close. I think they fit in as many as they could.
  • The casino is very warm at night.  If you don’t like the freezing cold of other casinos, then this one’s for you.  But for the most part, add smoke and it can get a tad uncomfortable.
  • The Buffet is smaller and underwhelming than expected.  Dinner is $37.50.  NETG was very disappointed – good thing it was free with Tier Matching.  If you have to pay, stay away.

    Dessert station only saving grace in Fresh Harvest Buffet

  • No Breakfast at the Buffet?!!!! Really? Just dinner & supper.

Ocean Resort Casino

  • The whole property tends to be easy in getting lost. Casino is on level 6, Hotel lobby a couple floors above that.  The slot floor, while and easy to get around, is also easy to get lose on.  When you circle by the Food Truck for the second time, you know you’re lost
  • Wanted to play Pai Gow Poker late morning – $50??? only table open.  Later at night had $25 low limit, but still better at HRC.
  • Retail shops are not really open yet except for fitness center, coffee place, and a couple clothing options.
  • Sorry, but I have to say the Ocean uniforms with this “yacht” theme don’t look good on most of the staff.  Nice try, but doesn’t work.  They DO stand out – maybe that’s what they are going for.

RECOMMENDATIONS

If you prefer a high energy, young, loud music filled atmosphere, go to Hard Rock, where a great tier match is waiting for you.

If you prefer the luxury of a resort, with better gambling, VIP lounges and the feel of a high-end stay, go to Ocean.

Both are great additions to the Boardwalk.  HRC may cause the most competition for Borgata for a while.  The options of HRC, Ocean and lower end but dependable Resorts makes a nice trio at the south end of the boardwalk.

Binbin & Bert

Trio Report – St. Paddy’s at Borgata

You might have noticed this past week’s NETimeGaming posts were fewer than usual, especially the weekend. There was a good reason – we were in Atlantic City! Here is our Trip Report.

Fly Borgata

Fly Borgata has changed the way we enjoy Atlantic City.  Instead of a 6 hour drive from CT, it’s a 35-45 minute flight.  We love flying in a small junket from different places in New England on Fly Borgata. We have flown from Bedford, MA., Providence, RI., and Hartford, CT. – all great times. It usually consists of flying Fridays, and returning Sundays, with two night free and $50 free slot play for qualifying players. If you are a qualified MLife member at Borgata, Check it out at Fly Borgata.

Hotels

The Borgata complex.

Our NETG trio stayed in both the original hotel and the WaterClub hotel. Both are excellent, with WaterClub a little further off the beaten path – quieter, own pool and spa. Walking down the short hallway to the casino, with high end retail shops, feels like an another MGM property – Aria. Great amenities, great stay.

Casino & Gaming

We had varied success. Miguel did not have his usual “Bu-fah-looo” success. We noticed lots of new slots, including Fort Knox Cleopatra, Bonus Bonanza, and new slots from Everi, IT, IGT. Borgata still offers plenty of full pay JOB video poker, even at the quarter denomination. Binbin was the big winner with two big VP hits with an Aces quad w/ kicker and quad 3’s w/ kicker at $1 denom- sweet!

St Paddy’s Day

The real reason for our venture south was to celebrate Miguel’s favorite holiday – St. Patrick’s Day. Amphora Lounge had scrumptious Irish options, as well as there usual fine culinary fare. Amphora continues to be one if the top VIP lounges in AC.

One of our highlights was the Gypsy Bar Bash upstairs, with great bands, outstanding eats, and of course, plenty of Guinness stout. Numerous entertainers walked around the those of us in attendance. It was a party atmosphere with lots of space. Add to that theregalia and music from the Red Hot Chili Pipers, a professional bagpipe corps, and you have one of the most festive Irish Holidays ever. If you visit next year, I highly recommend it.

Dining

The Bread and Butter is one of the best casual dining in AC. Breakfast sandwiches are delicious a less expensive choice than the buffet. Bert recommends the chicken salad sandwich for lunch, includes lots of chicken on their outstanding walnut raisin bread. And while the brunch at the buffet is expensive, it’s very good. Two omelet stations, and intriguing foods such as candied bacon and strawberry eclairs. Miguel recommends Chop & Toss salads downstairs under the poker room at The Marketplace. Huge, fresh salads like their Thai Chicken salad are faves, as well as the option to make your own with whatever protein combo you’d prefer. And not one, but two great ice cream/gelato options – Ben and Jerry’s, and housemade delectables from the Borgata’s award-winning Executive Pastry Chef (and former Executive Pastry Chef for the White House), Thaddeus DuBois, including gelato, sorbet and ice cream.

Conclusion

Fly Borgata is great.  There is a reason why Borgata is always crowded and full of excitement and great gambling – it’s the best in AC.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Binbin

CT Casinos Should Take Note of Atlantic City’s Future

The Atlantic City shore.

I like Atlantic City.  I stopped going because of the drive (6 hours from my CT home) and because it was getting so sad to see the downward trend from the 2007 recession. It started in 2006 when the Sands was closed & raised. I liked the Sands, a smokey old casino with that long entrance from the Boardwalk.  Alas, it was only a precursor of the downward spiral taking place in the next 10 years.

Now, in 2018, I’m am encouraged. While AC’s emergence will take time, the future looks promising and may not bode well for Connecticut’s casinos.

Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun continue to bring loyal fans from New York & New Jersey to their properties. The only competition at the same level is Borgata.  But excitement & hope are on the horizon for the Jersey Shore.

A Look Back

Let’s visit the past five year casino timeline in Atlantic City, courtesy of ACPrimeTime.

  • February 7, 2012: Claridge casino closed (bought by CET, hotel only)
  • April 2, 2012: Revel opens
  • Feb 24, 2014: TJM Properties buys Claridge from Caesars, creates non-gaming hotel
  • Jan 13, 2014: Atlantic Club closes (still closed, vacant)
  • Aug 31, 2014: Showboat closes (reopened as low quality hotel only)
  • September 2, 2014: Revel closes
  • September 16, 2014: Trump Plaza closes (still empty)

News in the past year or so has been very encouraging. In the Marina, MGM purchased the rest of Boyd Gaming’s half of Borgata. The sole owner of the best and most profitable casino in AC now provides for a distinctive connection to Nevada, as well as MGM’s blooming East Coast portfolio with National Harbor in D.C., and MGM Springfield to be the second completed Massachusetts casino.

Marina news doesn’t stop there.  Harrah’s AC has continued to expand for the convention market, and Landry’s purchase of the Trump Marina property has made the now Golden Nugget an improved player.

A Busy Boardwalk, not so long ago.

A Busy Boardwalk, not so long ago.

But the Boardwalk?  How is it doing?

NETG predicts huge strides will be made on the Boardwalk. While Atlantic Club, Trump Plaza and Showboat casinos remain closed and empty (Showboat reopened as low quality hotel only last year), recent news and progress has produced an enthusiasm Atlantic City hasn’t felt in years.

The Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City is a luxury hotel, casino, and spa resort that has raised the bar with night clubs and the Quarter – the largest non gaming expansion in the history of Atlantic City, featuring world-class dining options, an array of red-hot entertainment and nightlife venues, chic retail establishments, and a luxuriant spa facility.

CET (Caesars Entertainment) has renovated Bally’s casino, and has turned Wild West into a millennial hangout successfully with the philosophy of “five-dollar table games and “low-priced, fun” drinks. Still, CET has a way to go to attempt competing for revenue with Borgata. But with my new Diamond Card status for CET casinos (Thank You Michael Trager & TravelZork!) I was able to enjoy some of the higher level of Caesar’s amenities, and I have to say it was great.

Resorts, now run by Mohegan Sun Gaming, has almost renovated all of its run-down hotel rooms, as well as the casino area with new additional food options. Just a reminder – if you have a Mohegan Sun Momentum Card, you are able to use Momentum points for dining, etc at Resorts AC.

As they say in those infomercials, “Wait, there’s More!”

The biggest news of 2017 was Hard Rock’s purchase of the Taj Mahal. From renovation to completion, it is expected that the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will create over 3,000 jobs for Atlantic City and provide an ongoing and significant impact to the local and regional economies as well as the revitalization of Atlantic City. It is planning to open this summer (2018).

The biggest news of 2018 already has been the purchase of Revel. The property will be re-branded as the Ocean Resort Casino by its new owners. Together, Hard Rock & Revel could give Borgata  literally a run for their money.

Connecticut Casinos Need to Push Forward

Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun Hotel

Concerning AC’s rise in relevance, no other casino properties in New England have more to lose the the Pequots at Foxwoods and the Mohegans. No one depends on New York And New Jersey’s mid-to-high rollers as much as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.  Continued diversification is required by both.  Mohegan Sun’s projects at this time include the Mohegan Sun Exposition Center, bringing Mohegan Sun’s offerings to over 275,000 square feet of meeting space – the largest expo space along the New York-Boston I-95 corridor and more expansion highlighted in our post “Mohegan Sun Continues History of Expansion With New CEO.”

Grand Pequot Tower Casino

Foxwoods addition of the only covered Tanger Outlets in the country has been very successful. It has also gone a different path to attract guests – thrill rides.  With two thrill rides in place, a zip line and a race track are in order for 2018.

While New England’s large casino/resorts begin to battle it out – Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, MGM Springfield, Wynn Boston Harbor, and yes, even Twin River Casino/Resort with its new hotel – Atlantic city might just have a presence in their rear-view mirror.

Binbin

Special Thanks to Michael Trager and Darryl D. McEwen at TravelZork & Craig & Kyle at Due For A Win, the Atlantic City Podcast, for keeping me update on all Atlantic City News.