As Bally’s Corp. continues to execute an ambitious growth strategy across the US, Atlantic City remains a cornerstone of its corporate goals.
The company’s $25 million purchase of Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino opened doors for the regional operator formally known as Twin River Worldwide Holdings, including access to the country’s largest online gambling market.
“(Bally’s Atlantic City) is extremely important,” said Phil Juliano, executive vice president of casino operations & chief marketing officer for Bally’s Corp., during an exclusive interview with PlayNJ. “It brought us into the interactive space in New Jersey, which is blossoming at record levels…and that was an important part of this acquisition.”
Bally’s Corp. will be linking NJ online casino and sports betting with land-based play for customers through the Bally’s Rewards program.
“We’re excited about that and I’m sure we’ll do an excellent job,” said Juliano.
Bally’s Corp. sees Atlantic City potential
But the physical brick-and-mortar casino with the most famous address in all of Atlantic City also serves other purposes.
“Atlantic City is a destination,” Juliano said. “As a destination, we can cross-market to all (our) properties,” and online players using an integrated rewards program to draw new customers to the Jersey Shore.”
Bally’s Corp. CEO George Papanier said Atlantic City and Las Vegas are similar in the sense they are both attractive locations.
“We felt that a very important thing in a national portfolio was to have casinos and locations where people actually want to go,” Papanier testified during a NJ Casino Control Commission hearing this month. “And that is certainly Atlantic City during the (peak) season.”
Sending a rose-colored message that ‘Bally’s is back’
Of course, it is no secret that Bally’s AC has been neglected for years. Bally’s Corp. executives acknowledged the “bargain,” price tag of the Boardwalk casino during the NJ casino licensing process.
However, Bally’s c-suite team includes Atlantic City casino veterans, such as Papanier, Juliano, and GM Nicholas Polcino, who are bringing an old-school approach to resurrecting the 42-year-old property.
The Atlantic City casino is representative of how the rebranded company intends to do business.
Part of that mentality is doing the little things and doing them well, AC-native Juliano said. Replacing over a dozen rose-tinted windows in the Bally’s tower this summer is “emblematic,” of that larger mission, he said.
“We said ‘We’re going to start there,’ and send a message to everybody that Bally’s is going to pay attention to detail and bring this property back to its former glory,” Juliano said. “Bally’s is back.”
Failure is not an option for Bally’s Corp. in AC
Polcino is the man tasked with Bally’s Atlantic City’s revival on a day-to-day basis. Returning to oversee a property where he was a craps dealer in the 1970s, Polcino has a personal motivation.
“I didn’t come here to fail,” Polcino told PlayNJ earlier this year. “George, Phil, and those guys, they didn’t come here to fail. It’s not happening.”
One of Polcino’s biggest objectives was to restore a sense of pride in Bally’s employees. He, like many others, understands the toll that years of willful neglect of Bally’s took on casino workers.
Polcino testified this month the pride is coming back.
“The process has been a little slower because of COVID,” he said. “But I think we’re winning people over one at a time, one customer at a time, one employee at a time. There’s definitely pride here.”
Bally’s Corp. eyeing 2023
It also helps that Bally’s Corp. has committed nearly $100 million to the Atlantic City casino hotel.
Some of that capital reinvestment has already begun. The additions of the FanDuel Sportsbook, Jerry Longo’s Meatballs & Martinis, Water Dog Atlantic City, and Carluccio’s Pizza are examples. So is the return of live entertainment to Bally’s with Motown Forever.
A renovated lobby bar, new high-limit gaming areas, and a total makeover of nearly every hotel room are also in the plans.
“We’re currently focused on incremental improvements on the property,” Papanier said, adding Bally’s Corp. is “holding back just a little bit from a marketing perspective,” as the improvements take shape.
Then, Papanier said, the company believes the AC casino hotel will “be able to aggressively compete in the market.”
“We feel that will be sometime around the beginning of summer 2023,” he said.
AP Photo Wayne Parry