2020 looks to be a pivotal year for Tropicana Atlantic City
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2020 looks to be a pivotal year for Tropicana Atlantic City

The casino’s two top execs talked about what’s to come with Bettors Insider

As we head into the new year, one of the more interesting stories down Atlantic City way is expected to be what unfolds at Tropicana Atlantic City.

With the purchase of Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment by the Trop’s current owner, Eldorado Resorts of Reno, Nev. set to close by the end of the first quarter of 2020, the Boardwalk’s western-most adult playpen will be able to move forward as part of the mighty Caesars empire.

That could be a game-changer for what is AyCee’s most Las Vegas-like casino-hotel complex. In addition to almost 2,400 hotel rooms spread out among five towers, the Trop boasts 25 dining and 25 retail outlets—the majority of the latter located in The Quarter, the Havana-themed retail, dining and entertainment mall that is the only space of its kind in Atlantic City, and which contains such unique attractions as an Imax movie theater and Boogie Nights, a disco that pays homage to the pop culture of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

Bettors Insider recently sat down with Steve Callender, Eldorado’s senior vice-president of Operations for the East Region, and Jason Gregorec, who succeeded Callender as the Trop’s senior vice-president and general manager, for some crystal-balling.

The two declined to discuss Caesars-specific subjects, saying they preferred to wait until the marriage is (legally speaking) consummated. But Callender and Gregorec were happy to talk (albeit not always specifically) about changes and improvements to their property that are on the horizon.

The first thing Callender highlighted was the Trop’s continuing emphasis on customer service and how employees interact with guests.

“We really want to focus on the guest experience,” said Callendar, whose Atlantic City experience dates back to the town’s first legal casino, Resorts International (now Resorts Casino-Hotel) in 1978. “We think that is a big competitive advantage with Eldorado. We have what's called ‘family style service.’ This past year, every team member went through this… training.

“‘Family-style service’ is the way we treat our guests and our fellow team members. It's how you would treat somebody if they came into your house. It's treating people the ‘old-school’ way--how you want to be treated.

“It's very competitive in the market, so we want to make sure when people come to the property, they're taken care of. And it's about execution as well. When we do things, we want to do them right.”

As for the bricks-and-mortar side of things, Gregorec promised new shopping and dining options in 2020, but was short on details. “We have some retail and food and beverage spaces where we're going to make some changes in the coming year,” he offered. “We're not ready to roll it out yet, but we have a new vice-president of development [Sean Clancy] from our corporate office in Reno, who's doing a nice job. He's learning our market and working very hard, and we just want to continue to bring in things that draw customers to our property. Once they're here, we know we can take care of them.”

One of Tropicana’s greatest assets is the 2,000-seat Showroom. Boasting a proscenium stage that is one of the East Coast’s largest, the theater stacks up against any gaming-hall performance space in Atlantic City or elsewhere.

During the millennium’s first decade, its regular schedule of production shows and headliners kept the lights on throughout the year. More recently, however, bookings have been lighter. But it looks like the pendulum may be swinging back: For the first time in memory, the theater will host (beginning Jan. 19) a winter-time revue, The Rat Pack: Back in Town (produced by Allen Valentine, whose The Burlesque Show returns to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for a holiday run Dec. 26-Jan. 1). It’s a salute to the iconic Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. combination of the 1950s and ‘60s, and it speaks to Tropicana’s goal of being a “something-for-everyone” operation.

While Back in Town is aimed squarely at older patrons, the younger set is hardly being ignored. Gregorec noted that the Trop’s William Hill Sportsbook appears to be attracting a Millennial crowd, and he suggested that even the youngest demographic is not being overlooked. “It doesn't matter if you're 4 or 5 years old,” he said, “you can go into the arcade,” he said.

Both men made it known that such variety will remain Tropicana’s calling card in 2020.

“We're very diversified here,” insisted Callender. “We’ve spent about $250 million in the last five years. The rooms are as good as anybody's in town. And the atmosphere is great. The whole casino floor has been redone. We have [Olon and Okatshe by Philadelphia-based celebri-chef] Jose Garces, we have Chickie's and Pete's--things that are iconic, and they're spread out around the property. And there's a lot of great things to do here and a lot of fun to be had.”

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