I’m a long-time, seasoned Las Vegas traveler who found himself volunteering to stay and gamble in Atlantic City this past week. I normally try to get to Vegas two or three times each year in a combination of solo outings and trips with my wife and occasionally other family members. This year, we’ve had to stay close to home due to some family events, so when I saw an ad in our local newspaper for a 3-day junket to Atlantic City for a cheap price – and it included a single occupancy option – I decided to take a three night trip there to satisfy my gambling bug for the summer. As a personal challenge I had it in mind to do a “casino crawl” while there – to gamble at every casino in the city on the same day and to get a dated receipt for a drink or meal at each place. My son didn’t think I could do it, but since I’ve always been able to out-eat, out-drink, and out-gamble him every time we’ve been to Vegas or Tunica, I was surprised that he could possibly doubt my ability to accomplish my goal, however dubious it might be. So, here’s a Vegas junkies impression of Atlantic City: DAY 1 Left Tampa at about 1:45PM on a Sprit Air Charter. My wife had flown Spirit out of NYC and just HATED the experience, which included two cancelled flights and an overnight stay in Miami. My flight, however, was fine with one free checked bag through the junket charter. They allowed my carry-on backpack as a “free personal item,’ so all was well. Standard coach class seat was as expected. The notice of a $100.00 per checked bag charge made me think that I’d probably fly Spirit again…if I could wear ALL of my clothes on the plane! Bus to Bally’s for check-in after a stop at Harrah’s to drop off about half of the group there. Check-in was friendly and efficient. My room (#741 Dennis Tower) certainly met the requirement for “single occupancy.” A tiny room with a king-size bed taking up almost all of the space. A weirdly shaped window with a custom shade that stopped 8 inches above the sill contributed to the general feeling of distortion that the room gave. Still, it was clean and serviceable for my needs, so I could really find no cause for complaint. After wandering around trying to figure out the hotel’s layout and were to get a meal, I finally was able to wander out onto the Boardwalk and passed Harry’s Oyster Bar. After walking in through the outside seating I found myself right back in Bally’s! Had a decent fish sandwich with some clam chowder and a glass of sangria. Hit the spot, if a bit pricey. Gambled there at Bally’s for a while and then decided to check out the Boardwalk. It was a pleasant eventing and I notcied the Resorts casino to the north. I figured I could walk there easily, play for a while and then figure out what I wanted to do. After a while I realized that it was much further away than it looked and I finally dragged my aching feet into the joint and had a seat at the nearest bar. After recovering somewhat, I shot craps at a $10.00 dollar table and ended up with about a $60.00 profit. I was worn out at this point and decided to take a cab back to Bally's rather than walk. I didn't much care about the expense, either. I'm in bed by midnight reconsidering whether the "casino crawl" was such a good idea. As I dozed off I realized that my credibility was at stake, so we'd see what the next day would bring..... DAY 2 – THE ATLANTIC CITY CASINO CRAWL Up early at about 7:00 and made my outside where I took the jitney (small, local bus w/ $2.25 fare to any stop) up to Harrah’s. I was going to take the “Total Rewards Shuttle” service between Caesars, Bally’s, Showboat, and Harrah’s for Total Rewards card members, but it didn’t start running until 10:00 and it only runs once an hour. (Note to Caesars: Is this supposed to be a convenience for rewards members? Might re-consider this as a selling point for your properties.) 8:30AM – Harrah’s After wandering around for about 20 minutes in search of a place to eat breakfast only to find their coffee shop closed, I had the breakfast buffet. A bit pricey, but I was starving. Service was slow. Food was surprisingly good and even included (wait for it….) grits!! Shot craps at one of two $5.00 minimum craps table I would see the whole trip – which they promptly increased to $10.00 after about 10 minutes of my play. Results: $40.00 loss. Walked to Golden Nugget 10:00AM - Golden Nugget After a substantial walk around the bay in the hot sun, I arrived at the Golden Nugget. This place felt a lot like a Las Vegas casino. (More on that later) I bought a bottle of water at a coffee stand and looked around a bit. Bought into a $10.00 crap game and one player got on a pretty decent tear. Results: $165.00 profit. Went outside to catch the Jitney to the Borgata across the way. I had asked security if it was possible to walk over there, but they said I’d have to walk back the way I came passed Harrah’s and then further around the bay – something they didn’t recommend. And they said, “At night, there’s no way you should attempt that walk.” Observation: The Golden Nugget, Harrah’s and Borgata are located well away from the Boardwalk area in something called the Marina District, which is bordered by a bay on one side and a major traffic interchange on the other. So the jitney seemed to be the safest and easiest way to get across the traffic lanes. I got on the little bus, gave the driver the $2.25 fare and immediately saw the Borgata pass to the left! There are three routes that these gizmos travel and I was on the one back to the Boardwalk. (Note to self: Ask the driver about the route BEFORE you get on!!) I got off on the first stop at the closest casino – The Showboat. Another observation: The jitneys run along Pacific Ave. (Yep. Just like the Monopoly board.) which is between two and three blocks away from the actual casino entrances, so a major hike both into and out of the properties is required. They are a nice, cheap way to get from one end of the boardwalk to the other or to the marina district, but you’re still going to have to walk quite a bit. From the Showboat, I walked north to The Revel, which is at the extreme north end of the Boardwalk. I was going to have to visit it sometime during the day, so then: 11:45AM – The Revel This is the newest, most modern of the Atlantic City hotels and, if the reports are to be believed, was to be the equivalent of City Center in Las Vegas. In truth, Aria is one of the architectural masterpieces of modern times. The Revel? Sort of a Vdara/Cosmo wannabe on Quaaludes, IMHO. Had a $14.00 cocktail from their empty casino bar and shot craps at their sparse $10.00 crap game. Lost $15.00 rather quickly. The bright spot: Won $15.90 on a Goldfish slot machine. Results: $ .90 profit. Observation: It seems that on the very day I walked into The Revel, the local headlines declared that they had declared bankruptcy. I’m surprised no one said to me, “You should have been here YESTERDAY!!” thus helping to keep the joint afloat. I’m no expert on the economics of casino operations, but I’m just guessing that $100.00 meals, $10.00 crap games, and $14.00 well drinks just might not be the best business model. (Of course their response would be, “Don’t be ridiculous! We told our investors that we were going to sell $500.00 meals, $5,000.00 bottles of wine, $400.00 bottles of Grey Goose, and we jack the minimums up to $25.00 when the sun goes down and all of the beautiful people show up. We’re financial geniuses! We know what to do, you idiot!) Anyway, I suppose that when you let hedge fund managers build, own, and run casinos rather than gamblers, you should expect to go broke. And I’m not letting Caesars/Harrah’s of the hook by any means. I understand that they’re looking to close one of their A.C. properties soon (local scuttlebutt says it’s The Showboat), so their management geniuses aren’t worthy of much admiration either. I didn’t want to have to come back to Borgata later in the day, so I took a cab from the lobby entrance. 1:15PM – The Borgata I’m hungry now, so I figured that lunch would be a perfect purchase in order to get a dated receipt. After wandering around looking for both a restroom and someplace to eat lunch, I opted for someplace called the Borgata Baking Co. Looked at the menu and picked the “Signature Sloppy Joe” + a Coke. Here’s another time I should have asked directions. I didn’t a get a “Manwich”-type sloppy Joe – but a ham and cheese sandwich with mayo and cole slaw on it. NOT my type of sandwich, so rather than return to the surly attendants at the counter, I took the Coke and deposited the misnamed “sloppy Joe” in the nearest waste basket. I should have known to ask, as I once toured the entire east coast with in orchestra when I was young and was aware that each locality calls submarine sandwiches and milk shakes by entirely different names. I have only myself to blame. Finally found their food court, called The Cafeteria, and had a pizza slice to tide me over. I played poker here as the crap tables were jam-up with players and I couldn’t get near a spot. I had hung in there for quite a while until a bad beat hand (Board of 7-8-9, plus turn card of 10 gave my 10-J hole cards a high strait. River card of Q gave opponent the pot with his K-K.) Shoulda played craps! I caught a cab back to Bally’s. Result: $140.00 loss. 4:00PM – Bally’s I’m tired and ready for a nap. Will continue A.C. casino crawl later. Got up from nap about 6:30 PM and caught the jitney back up to The Showboat. 7:00PM – The Showboat Bought a beer at the center casino bar and wandered over to the craps table. Another $10.00 game, so I bought in. A player next to me puts on a nice roll. I do my usual crap, point, seven and then run to the cahier’s cage. Result: $120.00 profit I’m pretty hungry right now, so I make the short walk next door to the Trump Taj Mahal. I find what passes for their food court and get a ½ meatball sub at White House Subs. I wouldn’t want to even guess the size of their full sub, because their half sub was positively HUGE! I ate all I could and then wandered back to the casino. Didn’t spend much time at their $10.00 min. crap table, but moved on next door to Resorts. Results: $53.00 loss. 8:40PM – Resorts The craps table was dead, without any players, so since I had actually shot craps here the previous night, I got a cocktail at the Margaritaville bar and then wandered around for a bit. I found a “Hexbreaker” slot machine that appealed to me for some unknown reason and gave it some play. OK, been here. Done that. Time to move on. Results: $10.32 profit. Caught a cab to points south. 9:40PM – Tropicana This joint is at the far south end of the Boardwalk and the beginning of the final push to the end of my Atlantic City casino crawl. A more confusing floor plan couldn’t be possible and it took me quite a bit of time to find my way from where the cab dropped me off to the casino proper. After getting a cocktail at a bar, I made my way to the craps pit. I was absolutely shocked to find that ALL THREE LIVE TABLES WERE $5.00 MINIMUM! At last! The White Whale!! I was so pleased to be shooting lower limit craps that I probably stayed a little too long and had too many comped cocktails. I end up staggering away from the tables a modest loser. If I found Tropicana’s layout is confusing when I walked in, I was positively baffled when intoxicated!! I finally used my reason to calculate that, wherever I was, if I headed to the east, I’d eventually end up on the Boardwalk – and a northbound walk to my next destination. I got out my Smartphone and fired up the compass application. I followed the needle to the east, only to find myself going down a long string of shops and then exiting ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE BUILDING, but on Pacific Ave. – just steps from….a jitney stop!! O.K. so it’s going to be a jitney ride to the Trump Plaza instead of a walk. I’m totally good with that! I wondered if they’d let me take my drink on the bus. Not to worry. They did. Results: $63.00 loss. 10:20PM – Trump Plaza Found another bar and bought another cocktail and then off to the craps tables! (I’m seriously drunk by now, but can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel, hoping its not an oncoming train!) I left $82.00 on a table that was so cold that cattle were dying on it! Never thought I’d look forward to waking inside a Caesars property, but this was one of those times. (To think such a thing, I HAD to be drunk!) To the Boardwalk and the walk north. Results: $82.00 loss. 10:55M – Caesars Atlantic City One more cocktail down the hatch and another foray to the craps pit. Caesars has done an admirable job in re-creating their Las Vegas experience here on the east coast. High table minimums. Arrogant supervisors. Surly dealers. Why, it’s just like being in Las Vegas! You have to wonder how to do it! I stood as tall as my 5’- 3” frame would allow, gave my money the best gamble I could, and stuck it to Caesars for a whopping $16.00 win!! Nya-Nya-Nya-Nya-Nya! After visiting the cashier, it’s over the bridge to Bally’s, my home! Results: $16.00 win! 11:15PM – Bally’s One last cocktail and dated receipt at the L Bar (I think that’s what it was called. Can’t be sure. Definitely over my limit by now…) and off to my last gambling session for the day. The last $10.00 craps table for me this day and I racked up another loss, but I’d done it!! I had made a purchase and gambled in every casino in Atlantic City on the SAME DAY!! Results: $70.00 loss. Tomorrow would bring aching feet, a late start to the day, one where I’d just sort of wander where I wanted when I wanted. I still had a full day ahead that was full of promise. Observation: It took me a while, but I finally figured out why so many of the casino layouts in Atlantic City are so difficult to navigate. You always seem to be going down some passageway, of up or down some escalator or stairs. I think that it’s because all of the casinos on the Boardwalk are cobbled together from existing older properties and they haven’t been allowed to close any city streets. So, the passageways bridge the properties, which are on different elevations. So, if the casino wants to put together a spacious gaming area, it has to be on the second floor and above the city streets that they straddle. The Marina casinos don’t and are much more like Vegas properties – spacious gaming areas all on a single level. A much more familiar feel to frequent Vegas visitors. On the whole, staying at Bally’s (and any other of the Boardwalk properties, I assume) was a lot like being on a cruise ship. By the time you finally figure out where everything is it’s time to go home! Would I go back to Atlantic City on another short junket? Yes. The staff at Bally’s was very professional and accommodating. The tour operator was excellent. Do I prefer Las Vegas? DEFINITELY!!