Bally’s to get new name New owner plans rebrand - Sunday 12th of June 2005

When they coined the term "identity crisis," they must have been thinking about Bally's Atlantic City.

Where else can you find a stately, red-brick building, a Victorian-era hotel, a Wild West-like fantasyland and a modern, glass-skinned tower all melded within the same casino complex?

This rambling, gambling den covering four city blocks in the heart of the world-famous Boardwalk is going to be renamed by a new owner that hopes to tie together its disparate themes into one coherent brand.

Harrah's Entertainment Inc. revealed Tuesday that it will dump the Bally's moniker in Atlantic City and Las Vegas in favor of another brand name that has more cachet. The new name has not yet been determined.

Gary Loveman, chairman and chief executive officer of Harrah's, said a recent survey of about 15,000 gaming customers found that the Bally's name really doesn't resonate with gamblers.

"I think it's likely that it is not a brand or a name that we will continue to support to any great degree moving forward," Loveman said. "So we're looking for opportunities to rebrand Bally's in Atlantic City and rebrand Bally's in Las Vegas as part of an effort to revitalize those businesses and make something even better than what they have there currently."

The Bally's name switch is among a litany of changes expected to follow Harrah's $9 billion takeover of Caesars Entertainment Inc. in the world's biggest casino merger. In Atlantic City, Harrah's Entertainment will add the Caesars and Bally's properties to a portfolio that already includes the Harrah's and Showboat casinos.

Caesars, the upscale, Roman-themed casino, will keep its name under Harrah's ownership. Speculation is mounting that Harrah's may rebrand Bally's as a Rio or Horseshoe casino. Rio is an all-suites property known for its edgy nightlife, while Horseshoe is more of an old-fashioned gambling parlor famous for its high-stakes betting.

Once known as Bally's Park Place, the casino was renamed Bally's Atlantic City in March 2001. The sprawling complex includes the Victorian-era Dennis Hotel, the red-brick Claridge Hotel from the 1920s, the glass-covered Bally's hotel tower and the cowboy-themed Wild Wild West Casino.

Despite the pending name change, Ken Condon will remain Bally's president and there is expected to be little or no impact on the casino's nearly 7,000 employees, Harrah's officials said.

The addition of Bally's and Caesars will give Harrah's a huge presence in the center of the Boardwalk casino district. Altogether, the four Atlantic City properties now under the Harrah's banner will control about 40 percent of the town's net gaming revenue, casino space and hotel rooms.

In wide-ranging remarks, Loveman discussed the ramifications of the merger during a press conference Tuesday carried over the Internet. Harrah's completed the Caesars deal on Monday.

Focusing on Atlantic City, Loveman said Harrah's Entertainment hopes to revitalize the Boardwalk in the same way that Harrah's and its next door neighbor, the billion-dollar Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, have invigorated the Marina District.

"It is a very dynamic time in the Marina area, with the Borgata doing spectacularly well and Harrah's Atlantic City doing well," he said. "But we think there will be dynamism as well in the center of the Boardwalk with Bally's and Caesars."

Harrah's is studying the longterm viability of Caesars and Bally's, including possible expansion plans that could include new hotel rooms and retail-entertainment attractions.

"Our Atlantic City leadership team is currently hard at work figuring out what would be the right set of capital improvements to bring to that area," Loveman said of the Boardwalk casinos. "We think the future there will be bright and equally exciting with what you will find in the Marina."

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