Since it arrived in 1978, casino gambling has been the engine driving Atlantic City’s economy.
But with casinos and slot parlors cropping up in nearby states like Delaware and Pennsylvania, the city’s portion of the Northeast gambling industry has gotten smaller, from a high of $5.2 billion in revenues in 2006 to $2.5 billion this year.
Jeff Guaracino, executive director of Atlantic City Alliance, offers a remedy: attract leisure visitors interested in entertainment and dining in addition to gamblers. “The real trend, right now, is non-casino hotels,” he said.
Last year, the Claridge, formerly owned by the gaming corporation Caesars Entertainment, reopened as a boutique hotel, and on May 15 it unveils its newly renovated hotel lobby, ballroom and guest rooms.
The 500-room hotel, built in 1929, once welcomed the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nucky Johnson, the Prohibition-era political boss and racketeer immortalized in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” Indeed, the television show, which ended in October, has renewed interest in the few historic spots that remain in the city, like the restaurants Knife and Fork Inn and Dock’s Oyster House. Visitors can also take a 90-minute walking tour by the company A1 Tours, which traces the history of the boardwalk.
In February, Atlantic City’s dining scene received a boost, with the opening of Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill at Caesars. The British pub, which features menu items like Scotch eggs, shepherd’s pie and ale-battered fish and chips, is a welcome alternative to the kind of food courts that populate casino hotels.
Atlantic City is also striving to make a name for itself in entertainment. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, whose arena regularly hosts big-name acts like Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett (July 24), is opening an outdoor concert space called Festival Park, which will feature acts like the Killers on June 20 and Willie Nelson on Aug. 16.
Though Atlantic City will remain a destination for gamblers, Mr. Guaracina said he hopes these kinds of events will attract a greater variety of tourists.
“The casino experience is unrivaled. We’ll still be that destination for folks,” he said. “But a more well-rounded experience is where our future is going to be.”