ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT─ March 2013
by Frank and Alene Scoblete
Alene Scoblete is the CEO of Paone Press, which sells gaming books and tapes at discount prices. She also writes for www.frankscoblete.com. Her husband, Frank Scoblete, is the #1 best-selling gaming author in America. Frank’s books and tapes have sold over a million copies. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406 or write: Frank Scoblete Enterprises, Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565.
Note: My odyssey for Atlantic City (that was scheduled for this issue of the BJI) will be done in March for the April issue because major events have just occurred in AC, which are summarized below.
Revel First Casualty of Atlantic City’s Upcoming Devastation
by Frank Scoblete
You know it; I know it; the players know it; management knows it and the investors and banks certainly know it. Atlantic City has been in steep decline for the past half decade. Stalwart casinos such as the Hilton (now ACH); Trump Plaza; Wild, Wild West; Claridge, and Showboat are all struggling with low (or no) attendance, bankruptcy, and the threat of permanent closer.
While the Golden Nugget (formerly the Marina) seems to have gotten something of a reprieve with its takeover by Tilman Fertitta and a beautiful makeover, the same cannot be said of ACH or Trump Plaza – two casinos that show the wear and tear of years of use and poor management.
When I last walked the Boardwalk, both Claridge and Wild, Wild West were closed, and when they were open (on occasion), they were all but empty. One day at ACH, there was only one lonely slot player pumping coins into a machine. Trump Plaza had no craps tables open (around 10am) and only a couple of blackjack tables with a couple of players.
Things look awful.
Well, to misuse grammar – things are now looking "awfuller." Revel, the supposed savior of Atlantic City, the hotel that would make itself a destination resort, has gone into bankruptcy. Correct. Less than a year after it opened, if nature had its way, Revel would close. However, modern economic law has allowed the property to hang on by a thread. Just go to the Internet and read the reports, Revel is bleeding bloody red and unless something miraculous happens, this property could become the biggest white elephant in the history of the casino industry.
Trying to be a destination resort in a town that truly does not have a major airport; in an area that is now flooded with casinos in Pennsylvania with some in New York and Delaware; with high room prices even during midweek when the players are mostly senior citizens, who are not looking for a destination resort, just a day of play and a buffet (which this expensive destination lacked); Revel looked at the ocean and then – suicidally – jumped in and drowned itself.
Here is how one Facebook writer, Robert Oswald, summed it up after reading a tongue-in-cheek article I had written for CasinoCityTimes about the great psychic Madame LaPilate who predicted the imminent fall of Revel:
It seems like she[Madame LaPilate] knew something that a lot of people did not know. After knowing that Revel came with a whopping 2.4 billion price tag I would have said it was going to fail as a mega resort casino. I would have made an offer to buy the Yankees instead with that kind of credit.
I think there is a big disconnect between gamblers and people at the top of the casino industry. They do not know what the players/gamblers want. They just can't put a pretty building up on the boardwalk and expect to draw a large crowd anymore. With all of the Occupy Movements that went on in the northeast and around this country over the last few years the bankers like JP Morgan should have known that a 2.4 billion resort was doomed to fail in AC.
The bankers are really not a popular group right now and damn it didn't take long. Further proof of this is the fact that the CEO of Caesars Entertainment wants to make the biggest Don't Pass bet on humanity, by spearheading and trying to raise the retirement age of the citizens of this country. Such a move would only cripple an industry and drive the wedge a little deeper. That’s part of the disconnect I speak of, they are out of touch with the players.
Vegas might be able to get away with a destination theme along with fabulous shopping and dining and shows that tend to dominate the landscape but Atlantic City is not that way. Midweek you are hard-pressed to find top-notch entertainment performing. Many restaurants take a couple or a few days off per week.
Perhaps the only thing that can rejuvenate Atlantic City would be the closing of many of the poor-performing casinos and a corresponding increase in extremely (and I mean extremely) loose slots, great video poker, low minimums on table games, and comps galore. The AC casinos have to get back all those gamblers that are just tooling down the block to play at their local casinos in neighboring states.
Atlantic City will never become a destination town until a real airport is built that can take major airlines from all over the country. There just aren’t enough buses in the Eastern seaboard to bring in enough revenue to allow Atlantic City to survive at any level of greatness.
It is sad but true – everything is awfuller right now in AC.
Okay, so what about the blackjack games? Overall, they are the same – if not worse – than they have been for the past few years. The high-roller room action has the best games with the best rules and – at times – some decent penetration but so many have now gone to standing on soft 17 that those good rules are thwarted by this simple expediency. From what I understand, Pennsylvania has much better blackjack games – so why would a blackjack player trudge to the Queen of the Sea?
Our Readers Report
If you wish to contribute your reports or observations, we need to receive them by the 18th of the month for the next month. Write to: email@example.com
We have many readers who send us their reports on various aspects of Atlantic City and we do have some that give us reports just about every month – so we have decided to give them the fame and glory (as opposed to "fortune and glory") of their own columns
You will note that our correspondents tend to have somewhat different views. Always it is up to you to decide which games you want to play by scouting them for yourselves.
Dear Frank and Alene:
AC hasn’t really changed its games much over the years. There are some of those terrible one-dollar (blackjack) games where you pay 25 cents per hand to be allowed to play. The rules are the same rotten rules as the other games with hitting on Soft 17. The nerve of trying to soak every last penny from the patrons of the casinos.
You want to know why so many people are saying screw Atlantic City? Because the greed of the casinos knows no bounds.
You really know that AC is down in the dumps when there are fewer bums on the Boardwalk.
Lionel J. K.
We thank many of our readers for helping us to stay as updated as possible. There may be some disagreements in ratings among our correspondents but all these reports are based on individuals’ experience.A word to the wise: it’s always best to check out the casinos for yourselves.
***** = Excellent
**** = Very Good
*** = Good
** = Fair
* = Poor.
BALLY’S PARK PLACE: No change from last issue. I am getting used to the hitting on soft 17 and my ratings are starting to change as I take this fact for granted. That is not a good thing. Good cuts of about 80 percent. Could be a happy time for card counters. This might be a good time to check this casino out. All 8-deck games except for the high roller room action. The hitting on soft 17 is now a sad fact. Crews are friendly. Craps games are quite good. High roller minimums can go as high as $200. Three stars: * * *
BORGATA: No change from last issue. The 6-deck games are now almost everywhere again and the penetration is starting to look like the old Borgata, if you can call a relatively new casino "old." A mixture of S17 and H17 were found but the H17 is starting to dominate. This is a happening place and caters to a swinging 30-something crowd that Revel is trying to attract. You’ll enjoy the night clubs and the beautiful people. We’ll see what happens. This is still a decent casino for blackjack. Not a good casino for craps. Two and one-half stars: * * ½*
CAESARS: Looks to be a casino that is still flourishing from what we can see during those midweek periods. The main floor of eight-deckers has some of the upper-limit tables ($25 and $50) with no mid-shoe entry. All the games in the high roller pit are also no mid-shoe entry with $100 and higher minimums. Six-deck games in high roller room have 75 percent penetration just as most of the regular floor does. High roller room is S17; the main floor is H17 when we were there. The craps games here are good with 12-foot tables. The tables are high so smaller controlled shooters should wear their "special shoes." Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
CLARIDGE: Closed every time we’ve stopped by. This is an historic hotel. If it weren’t, we think it would be torn down and be another empty lot across from the empty lot that used to be the Sands. If this place doesn’t fold it is possible it will just become an empty, old building with landmark status.
HARRAH’S: The blackjack games are so-so with eight decks and penetration of about 70-75 percent. Seems to be holding its own in the down-trending AC landscape. Good place for craps. Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
ACH [formerly the Hilton]: With $3 table minimums you are seeing the decline of AC. The folks who play these games are either true low-lives or folks who would have played $10 games and now are happy playing for less. Could this now be the worst BJ casino in AC? Mid-week did not see too many players – one time there was only one player in the whole place! Blackjack games of the "pay 25 cents" so you can bet one dollar have arrived. High roller room is 6-decks; rest of the casino is 8-decks with a few $25/$50 6-deckers on occasion. No mid-shoe entry on the six-deckers. For craps, we are dealing with 13-foot tables and a couple of 12 footers. The casino is now actively promoting to the locals and if by local they mean the baggy pants worn under the buttocks folks laundering their drug money, this place may someday rival Trump Plaza in lowlifes. Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
RESORTS: Same as last issue. The reports are in and out about this casino’s games and the casino’s future. Many H17 games on main floor; high roller room is S17. Penetration on all games is about 70-75 percent which is not bad considering this is AC. Decent craps games. Has opened the first Atlantic City gay nightclub and is courting the gay community, which is a smart move as gay vacation resorts and nightclubs seem to make a good go of it. Two and one-half stars: * * ½*
REVEL: Only 11 months into its existence and it is already in bankruptcy. Some games are good and some are bad. Look for the six decks with S17; the eight deckers are hit on soft 17. The six deckers are in the minority. Penetration is 75 percent at most. You’ll meet a lot of dealers who left previous casinos in AC. That should help you get acclimated. But whoever decided to go with the small comps, highly expensive rooms did not understand the AC base. This wanted to become a destination resort and its destination seems to be the bottom of the economic barrel.
Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
SHOWBOAT: Same as last issue. Slots dominate this place now. The blackjack has deteriorated considerably with little penetration – maybe you play 60-66 percent of the shoe. All games are hit on soft 17. High roller room is passable with better penetration, about 75 percent, and at some slow times the minimums are $25 – although you won’t see this much in the summer. Pass this place by unless you are walking Fido since they are now the animal friendly hotel – disgusting! One star: *
TROPICANA: No change from last issue. Starting to really look like a top-notch property. This place is going in the opposite direction from Trump Plaza and ACH by bringing the highest rollers into AC. Now the place is H17 on all games except those outside the high roller room. Still has some good penetration, maybe 75 percent; sometimes excellent penetration of 80 percent. Three stars: * * * (for penetration)
THE GOLDEN NUGGET: The blackjack games in the high roller room are excellent with penetration of 80 percent and top rules such as splitting and resplitting; and standing on soft 17. The eight-deck games in the casino are ho-hum and basically the same as all the other casinos in AC. The craps games are excellent and – as always – this place has the nicest and most professional dealers you will find. Give it a whirl but again, the report is blackjack paranoia now reigns supreme here. Two and one-half stars: * * ½*
TRUMP PLAZA: Has been sold but it might be too late for this place which is now called "Dump Plaza" or "The Trump Dump" but it does have fairly good games when those games are open. Still something has to be done with the dark casino and the low-life scum skulking through it. The penetration is 70-75 percent. No mid-shoe entry on games outside high-roller pit but you can find $25 (a few) to $50 minimums on these. Allows resplits, except aces. All tables are $10 and higher. Craps tables are 12-footers. The dealers range from professional and friendly down to arrogant and ignorant. Some days the place is practically empty. Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: No change from last issue. Now they are hitting soft 17 except in high roller room. First they screwed up the craps tables so the dice go flying off the table every third roll and now they have decided to give the blackjack games a wicked colonoscopy with barbed wire. Great hotel and great restaurants and great entertainment. Also, great dealers and pit personnel. Too bad it isn’t the premier place to play any more because it is a great place to stay. Two and one-half stars: * * ½*
WILD, WILD WEST: Tumble-weed is blowing through this place now.
THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY: Bally’s and Tropicana
THE BEST CRAPS IN ATLANTIC CITY: All except: Borgata, Taj Mahal, Showboat and Wild, Wild West.
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