The Casino File: Future owner Twin River’s plans for Bally’s Atlantic City coming into focus; emphasis on upgrading amenities
Although New Jersey state regulators have yet to sign off on the purchase of Bally’s Atlantic City by Twin River World Holdings, the Rhode Island-based casino chain continues to formulate its plans to transform the long-neglected mid-Boardwalk hotel-casino into a top-tier destination.
In an interview with Bettors Insider, a high-ranking Twin River executive revealed that once the purchase from Caesars Entertainment closes (November is the target date), virtually every inch of the 41-year-old complex will be upgraded, from hotel rooms and the casino floor to restaurant inventory and the property’s trailblazing spa.
According to Phil Juliano, Twin River’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, company officials—including some, who like himself, are Atlantic City industry vets—are bullish on the town despite the COVID-created (and other) challenges it continues to face. And he suggested that because TRWH, which currently operates seven properties in Rhode Island, Delaware (Dover Downs), Mississippi and Colorado, is paying a bargain-basement $25 million for Bally’s, significant funds are available for capital improvements. Foremost among them is a complete overhaul of the hotel-room inventory.
“We have a plan,” said Juliano, who, among other AyCee gigs, ran what is now called Resorts Casino Hotel and the defunct Atlantic City Hilton when both had the same owner. “There are legendary suites in that hotel, and they're still in fairly good shape, but we're going to take them to as good a condition as one could imagine, so we can get premium players into them. And there's a bunch of rooms that connect that are going to be made into mini-suites with two bathrooms. We think that's very appealing.
“Then, we're going to have an above-average room for the market, because we think that that's appealing to people who just need a room, but they want something a cut above [standard]. Our standard room will be as good as any standard room in the market.”
He added that the rehab project will be undertaken in a manner that won’t significantly disrupt hotel operations.
As for feeding those in the rooms (and other guests), Juliano is particularly excited about the deal that will bring Jerry Longo’s Meatballs & Martinis to Bally’s. It will be part of the popular Italian restaurant chain that was founded in Providence, R.I. by South Philadelphia native Longo, and will replace Arturo’s which was named for the late trucking magnate Arthur Goldberg, who once owned the casino. Still up in the air is the fate of celebri-chef Guy Fieri’s Chophouse.
Juliano added he’s hoping to get Ventnor’s Water Dog Smoke House, which specializes in deli-style smoked fish and meats, to open inside Bally’s, and noted he wants to continue the successful, COVID-inspired, al fresco dining space that operated this summer on the deck adjacent to the hotel’s spa.
“It was a breathtaking view and it was a really cool situation,” he offered. “And I'm going to have to give that a go.”
When it opened, what was then called the Spa at Bally’s was the forerunner of the kind of facility that today is de rigeur at casino-hotels throughout the country. But it’s been many years since it was an industry leader in Atlantic City. That, Juliano promised, will change.
“I can remember the day [in 1990] when the spa opened. It was a $20 million [project] and it was the finest thing that had come to Atlantic city as an amenity that I can remember. We're going to resurrect that, and we're going to make it special. We're going to put in an international flavor, maybe Asian or European. We’re going to bring back its prior glamor.”
Even in its turn-of-the-‘80s heyday, Bally’s was never an entertainment powerhouse, although its main ballroom did host the occasional headliner (its show biz signature was the long-running drag revue, An Evening at La Cage). But Juliano noted that entertainment is a key part of the Twin River marketing strategy, and he expects that to be the case here. To that end, he said the ballroom will receive tech upgrades to bring it in line with current industry standards. UFC matches—another Twin River staple—are also on his wish list.
Of course, the property’s linchpin will be the gaming operation. To that end, a state-of-the-art system called “e-bonusing” will be prominent. “E-bonusing” is a system by which players can redeem slot credits and download bonuses right at their machine rather than go to designated redemption centers. According to Juliano, it is standard on all 1,000 units at the company’s gambling hall in Tiverton, R.I. and players there “love it.”
In addition, the gambling parlor will boast “a load of the progressive games” and, he said, “We're certainly going to respect our Asian crowd and have a real interesting experience there for our Asian customers.”
The impending sale of Bally’s includes neither the Wild Wild West casino/entertainment complex, nor The Book, the William Hill-affiliated sports-betting parlor, located within the Wild Wild West. Both will become part of adjacent Caesars Atlantic City. But, Juliano announced, the wagering room will be replaced by a state-of-the-art operation that will be located closer to the Boardwalk.
So, what’s the deal with the casino’s name? Are they keeping the “Bally’s” brand? The answer is yes. And no.
“When we take over…the Bally’s name will still be [used],” said Juliano. “Whether or not we keep the name, is to be determined.”
Chuck Darrow is the Casino Lifestyle Editor of Bettors Insider. The Casino File posts Fridays and when news breaks.