The Casino File: Poker returns to Atlantic City; Casinos salute veterans; Twin River re-brands as Bally’s
Poker returns to the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spain Atlantic CityBorgata Hotel Casino & Spa

The Casino File: Poker returns to Atlantic City; Casinos salute veterans; Twin River re-brands as Bally’s

So far, players seem to be adjusting and happy just to be back on the felt.

It’s “so far, so good” for poker at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

While there were certainly hopes and expectations, no one knew for sure how things would go when, on Oct. 14, the Big B became the first (and still only) Atlantic City gambling den to reopen its poker room, some seven months after it was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the town’s nine casino-hotels were all up and running by the end of July, the five poker rooms remained closed due to the nature of the game: Players sit in close proximity and continually touch cards and chips, both of which circulate freely among those at the tables.

A successful reboot at Borgata certainly wasn’t guaranteed. After all, the reduction in table inventory (from more than 80 to 30) and seats per table (seven, down from 10) means longer waits for those itching to play. And news media are filled with stories of people refusing to comply with masking and social-distancing requirements in public spaces, sometimes with negative consequences. But it seems that at Borgata, all is copacetic.

“Our first week was extremely busy, with the space filled to capacity throughout the weekend,” reports James Bruno, Borgata’s vice president of casino operations.

While waiting lists for seats are, by necessity, longer than those in pre-COVID days, Bruno notes that players are no longer forced to remain in the poker room to avoid missing their names being called to fill a table vacancy. “We have implemented a new paging system as part of our social distancing efforts which… provides players the freedom to explore the casino, eat, drink, shop, game, etc., and then call us to confirm their seat availability,” he says.

As for acceptance of the new regulations and limitations (including a ban on spectators) on the part of players, Bruno says things have proceeded “without issue.”

In Pennsylvania, four casinos have thus far brought back poker: Rivers Casino Philadelphia, Mt. Airy Casino Resort Spa, Mohegan Sun Pocono and The Meadows Casino-Racetrack-Hotel. Parx is expected to follow suit (pardon the pun) before the end of the year.

Honoring our heroes

Two Atlantic City gaming halls are rolling out the red carpet (one of them literally) for former and current military members to celebrate Veterans Day 2020.

At Ocean Casino Resort, overnight guests who present their Veterans or Active Military I.D.s along with an Ocean Rewards Card on Nov. 11 will be eligible to check in to their rooms at a dedicated station featuring an actual red carpet. Perks that day include a special room rate, complimentary valet parking, free coffee at Lobby Brew or The Grind, and a commemorative t-shirt, which can be acquired at the Card Center.

In addition, employees who served in the armed forces will be paid tribute by a Wall of Honor.

To top off the day, the evening will see a red, white and blue display on the property’s signature rooftop globe.

For more info, click here.

On the bay side of AyCee, Borgata will toast vets enrolled in the M life Rewards Military and Veterans Program (MVP) all next month. From 11/1 through 11/30, veterans enrolled in MVP will receive $25 worth of Express Comps to spend as they wish while on property.

On Veteran’s Day itself, MVP-enrolled guests will receive free parking, a free cup of coffee at Bread + Butter, and free gelato at Borgata Baking Company.

Eligible folks who enlist in the MVP will be automatically upgraded to the Pearl level, which provides guests with exclusive M life Rewards benefits all year long.

For more info, click here.

Name game

In our Sept. 18 column, Phil Juliano, a top executive at Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which is awaiting state approval for its $25 million purchase of Bally’s Atlantic City, was somewhat vague when addressing the future branding of the Boardwalk casino-hotel complex. He told us that the company would keep the Bally’s handle upon acquisition, but he didn’t rule out a name change down the road.

Well, an announcement earlier this week by the Rhode Island-based gaming chain appears to settle the question once and for all: Twin River itself has decided to change its corporate moniker to Bally’s effective Nov. 9. As such, it is logical to assume Bally’s will remain Bally’s for many years to come.

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