AC From A to F: A Casino Report Card

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Since 2003, the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority has been trying to convince the world that the town is "Always Turned On," which as an advertising slogan wouldn't work well in Vatican City but is entirely appropriate for a place that considers itself Vegas East.

But how turned on are AC's casinos? We stayed up way too late on a recent weekend, hitting all 12 casinos to see which ones had a scene -- and which ones shouldn't be seen. Admittedly, things are changing rapidly, with major additions due at several resorts, and beach bars open during the warmer months were dormant, but here's how they measured up a few weeks ago.

{diam} Atlantic City Hilton. Anyplace that has a lounge called the Dizzy Dolphin--with an actual sailboat, including a soaring mast, serving as the bar--is okay with us. Still, the band playing drippy easy-listening tunes and the sleepy crowd slumped over their drinks didn't exactly get our pulse racing.

Grade: C-

{club} Bally's Atlantic City. Major props to the Blue Martini, a chic lounge off the casino floor that's one of AC's most Vegasy nooks. And the country music served up in the Mountain Bar is at least different. But otherwise, this sprawling resort, encompassing three buildings (the Wild Wild West Casino, in particular, puts the "old" into Old West), left us cold.

Grade: C+

{heart} Borgata. With the Mixx, the B Bar, the Gypsy Bar, a comedy club and enough au courant acts in its Music Box and Event Center venues (everyone from Lenny Kravitz to Dave Chappelle in the coming weeks) to put the rest of the city to shame, Borgata remains the classiest, sassiest joint in town. Now if it could just drop a little of that attitude . . .

Grade: A

{spade} Caesars . We'll pretend we didn't see the guy in the hallway who took out his teeth and cleaned them over a garbage can, and still give the place high marks. The Party Pit on the casino floor featured a decent band pumping out Top 40 tunes, while the elongated, dimly lit Toga Bar was a terrific respite from the nearby slot action. The Gladiator Sports Bar took some detective work to find, but the trio playing smooth jazz was worth it.

Grade: B+

{diam} Harrah's. We missed the unveiling of Xhibition--a circular affair on the casino floor with plasma TVs, a wall of liquor and comfy seating--by a few days, but we'll work it into our grade anyhow. Harrah's was already a winner because of its rockin' Eden Lounge, featuring a deejay and a horde of revelers in a fake garden, and its neighboring Sapphire Bar--blue-hued, chic and as classy as the rest of the resort.

Grade: B+


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