Resorts to expand in Jimmy Buffett style in Atlantic City

    Parrot Heads, you’re on notice. Resorts will have a place for you and your margaritas and flip flops and pot pots next spring.

    On Tuesday, Resorts announced that it will be opening a $35.5 million Margaritaville expansion in spring 2013. A key part of the work will be rebuilding Steeplechase Pier, which burned down in 1988. Overall, the expansion will include two restaurants and a bar along with retail and island-themed gaming options (Parrot Head slots? Perhaps). 

    This is good news for Resorts, and for Atlantic City. The city’s first casino has been struggling. In 2009, Resorts defaulted on its mortgage and nearly shut down before being bought for a song in late 2010. Its gaming revenues are down 15.9% from this time last year. A switch to a Roaring Twenties theme, meant to capitalize on the success of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, hasn’t quite taken hold. Instead, it lead to embarrassing discrimination lawsuits from cocktail waitresses who allege they were fired or forced into demotions because they didn’t fit into sexy flapper costumes.

    The key here is that, while the expansion will include some gaming, it’s focused on those non-gaming options: bars, restaurants and retail. This is what Atlantic City must continue to offer in order to attract people to their shore town now that they’re no longer the only gaming option in the region.

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    I’ve been to a Margaritaville in Orlando. It’s a bit cheesy, but it’s nothing over the top — especially compared to an over the top casino town.

    I’m not surprised both N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and Jimmy Buffett were on hand for the announcement. It’s a big deal. Hopefully, it’ll work.

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