New Day, Big Investment at Bally’s Atlantic City

The Memorial Day weekend ribbon-cutting for a new outdoor bar at Bally’s Atlantic City is a big step in the revival of the iconic Boardwalk property, now owned by Bally’s Corp. Bally’s paid $25 million for the property, and plans a $90 million renovation.

New Day, Big Investment at Bally’s Atlantic City

It was the November purchase of Bally’s Atlantic City by the former Twin River Worldwide Holdings that prompted the Rhode Island-based operator to change its name from Twin River to Bally’s Corp. The company will rebrand 15 former Twin River properties with the Bally’s name. A big part of that transformation is the revival of what is now the operator’s flagship property, Bally’s Atlantic City.

On May 28, Bally’s kicked off Memorial Day weekend by with a ribbon-cutting for the all-new Bally’s Beach Bar. It coincided with the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in New Jersey, including the expiration of mask requirements and a return to full capacity for Atlantic City casinos.

The new version of the Beach Bar, which features casual grill fare, specialty cocktails, DJs and local bands, has been improved with new drinks and food items, all-night live music and a new Beach Barbecue serving chicken, burgers, hot dogs, sausage and more.

Phil Juliano, an Atlantic City native, longtime local casino executive and now executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Bally Corp., cut the ribbon on the new facility along with Bally’s General Manager Nick Polcino and several local business and tourism leaders.

Juliano linked the Beach Bar opening to the operator’s larger effort to refurbish and revitalize Bally’s Atlantic City, a place where he was an executive for many years.

The Beach Bar provides a good follow-up to initial improvements, including the FanDuel Sportsbook and Bar on the Bally’s casino floor.

“Everything out here is new,” Juliano told GGB News prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We have all new furniture, and we’ve installed an authentic charcoal barbecue. When the wind blows right and everybody on the Boardwalk smells that, they’re going to come right down.”

Juliano said the new barbecue was an idea he learned through prior experience. “I did that back at Showboat many, many years ago, and I never forgot it,” he said. “When I saw we didn’t have that (at Bally’s), I insisted that we put it in.”

Big Plans, Major Investment

“We’re excited about owning this property,” Juliano said. “We have a tremendous amount of plans that will turn into realities (and) bring this place back to where it deserves to be—in the center of the Boardwalk, a place we all remember in its grandeur at a time in the past. It’s going to come back, and it’s going to be something you’re going to be very proud of.”

The Beach Bar is a small part of the more than $90 million Bally’s Corp. has earmarked to refurbish Bally’s Atlantic City—a property the operator acquired for only $25 million.

Juliano told GGB News the plan is to renew everything outside and inside, starting with the scattered blue replacement panes on the side of the rose-colored hotel tower, which he called “a disgrace.”

“Every one of them will be rose-colored by the Fourth of July,” he said. “That will make it look the way it looked many years ago.” Within a few years, he added, the entire Boardwalk façade will be replaced with a modern look, including a multimedia display. “This façade is old and tired, and has to come to life,” he said.

Inside, every room in the main tower will be refurbished, beginning right after the summer season ends on Labor Day. According to Juliano, that refurbishment will continue until every room—not only in the main tower, but the ancillary Dennis Tower—is renewed.

In addition to the rooms, Bally’s has embarked on an ambitious and creative revamp of the food-and-beverage offerings. On the main sixth-floor dining level, the former Arturo’s has been replaced by the fourth location of Longo’s Meatballs & Martinis, a brand that originated in the operator’s home base of Providence, Rhode Island. (The third branch of the venue is at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware, also owned by Bally’s.)

Under construction starting last week is a new branch of Water Dog, a local favorite from “downbeach” Atlantic City in the town of Ventnor, known for its combination of breakfast fare, barbecue, smoked fish and deli fare. “It’s an eclectic menu,” said Juliano. “It’s a whole new array of foods in the way it’s presented. It’s a part deli, part hip three-meal restaurant style. It’s going to be popular here.” Water Dog will replace the Buca di Beppo restaurant on the sixth floor.

Elsewhere, Juliano says Bally’s is in negotiations with a new tenant that will transform the former Pickle’s deli near the Boardwalk entrance into an Asian restaurant. “That same tenant will also put an Asian bakery called the Bubble Tea Bakery in the walkway over to the Claridge,” he said. The potential tenant is what Juliano called a “first-class Asian operator” that also will be responsible for the noodle bar.

The individual restaurants will be joined by a couple of new dining concepts. “Dining on the Sixth,” slated to open on the Fourth of July weekend, will use the ample open lobby space on the sixth floor to create a community dining area, complete with a piano player, in which customers can order from any one of the sixth-floor restaurants, including Guy Fieri’s Chop House as well as the new venues. “That should be real uplifting,” said Juliano. “It also will handle the overflow from the restaurants.

“We learned from the pandemic that you could successfully do something like this.”

Another new dining feature will transform the current player’s lounge, known for its expansive direct ocean view, into a “butler’s suite,” in which premium players can receive special service from any restaurant in the building.

Juliano said the restaurants will be complete by the middle of July.

Time to Play

The renovations will extend to the casino floor. In addition to the new FanDuel sportsbook, the operator is restructuring all the high-limit gaming areas. “We’re already very busy in tables,” said Juliano. “We’re the fifth-busiest in town in drop already, and we only took over in mid-February.”

He said Bally’s also is adding new slot product and redesigning the floor, “to where the spots that are dead are going to come to life. It’s going to look spectacular; it’s going to return Bally’s to its glory.”

Finally, the operator is undergoing a refurbishment of the Spa at Bally’s, the pool-and-spa area that was the talk of the city when it opened in the mid-1980s. “Phil said it all—we’re going to bring this place back to its glory,” said GM Polcino at the ribbon-cutting. “It’s going to be a happy time for all of us.”

“Atlantic City is in my veins,” Juliano told the crowd at the opening. “I was born and raised here, and lived about four or five blocks away. This is a passion of mine, and the team here—to get this thing right.”

Articles by Author: Frank Legato

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the humor book How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and a coffee table book on Atlantic City, Atlantic City: In Living Color.