ACH Casino gets new name, new emphasis

The Hilton name is gone, but the imprint remains, above, at the renamed Atlantic Club. Billboards touting the casino have started going up on the Black Horse Pike, right, and on the Atlantic City Expressway.
The Hilton name is gone, but the imprint remains, above, at the renamed Atlantic Club. Billboards touting the casino have started going up on the Black Horse Pike, right, and on the Atlantic City Expressway. (WAYNE PARRY / Associated Press)
Posted: February 08, 2012

ATLANTIC CITY - The former Atlantic City Hilton Casino, renamed ACH Casino Resort last year, is now the Atlantic Club.

The casino's new name and business strategy were unveiled Tuesday by Michael Frawley, Atlantic Club's chief operating officer, who said the casino wants to be "the locals casino" in the market as it seeks to reestablish itself.

"This isn't where you take your wife on her birthday. This is where you take your wife on a Wednesday," Frawley said matter-of-factly inside his office here. "This is a value proposition," he said, "where the locals go."

Billboards have started going up on the Black Horse Pike and the Atlantic City Expressway, with more to go up next week to bring that message home. Two read: "Finally, a casino for the rest of us" and "My Town. My Casino."

Parking will be free starting next month - even during the peak summer.

Of 1,500 slot machines, about half will be new, and 1,000 will have low denominations. Table games - which are being reduced from 86 tables to 50 - will have limits of between $5 and $15.

Entrees at any of its seven restaurants will average between $12 and $18.

And if you want to use gaming comps outside the casino, the Atlantic Club has partnerships with 20 local businesses, including The Walk outlet mall in the heart of downtown Atlantic City, which will accept comp points for purchases at any of its 95 retail stores.

"Just because it's a better value, it does not mean cut-rate," Frawley said. "We are trying to differentiate ourselves in the market . . . and price points will be the differentiator.

". . . Given our current economic situation, value is really being sought after."

The Boardwalk casino, among the smallest and a fixture here since the mid-1990s, has struggled the last few years as newer and bigger in-town rivals, as well as casinos in Pennsylvania, stole market share.

The former ACH finished ninth among the city's 11 casinos in total revenue last year at $143 million.

Owned by Colony Capital L.L.C. of Los Angeles, the casino defaulted on its mortgage in 2009, and efforts to sell it went nowhere.

In May, Hilton Hotels & Resorts announced that the gambling hall would no longer be allowed to use the Hilton logo after the two ended a franchise-license agreement. The logo was removed from the building exterior in December, and the Atlantic City location was dropped from Hilton's portfolio.

In November, state regulators approved a plan to pump about $24.3 million into the ailing casino to keep it open for at least another year. About 150 workers were laid off to streamline operations.

In exchange for the cash infusion, lenders wiped out ACH's debt and took over two other Colony Capital-owned casinos in Mississippi.

Frawley and senior management, in December, made their presentation to Colony on the casino's new name and direction.

The renovation has been done in phases, and the casino has remained open. It launched its new marketing strategy this month; the restaurants will get new menus starting in early March; all the interiors, including the cards and dice, will get the Atlantic Club logo by mid-March.

Frawley hopes to have the casino floor renovation - which is costing about $13 million - completed by late April.

The new name and rebranding come just three months before the much-anticipated $2.4 billion Revel opens on the northern end of the Boardwalk


 . As Atlantic City's newest and biggest casino, Revel in many ways is the polar opposite of the Atlantic Club.

"Revel will be good for the market and will generate more attention for Atlantic City," Frawley said. "I think we can absolutely coexist. There is a place for us and a place for Revel."


Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or sparmley@phillynews.com.

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