Atlantic City moves closer to Las Vegas - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Two years after the opening of the much-ballyhooed Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the citys first Las Vegas-style mega-resort, the long down-at-the-heels gambling getaway welcomes a Las Vegas-size entertainment complex overseen by the House of Blues.

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Making its debut this weekend with Eminem and Counting Crows concerts, the House of Blues complex is the chains largest. It has a 2,500-capacity music hall, a themed restaurant, members-only club and the first House of Blues casino floor. Theres also a 35-table poker room designed to host World Series of Poker events. (Information: 609-236-2583, hob.com.)

House of Blues only location in the Northeast, attached to the Showboat casino on the Atlantic City boardwalk, is just the latest in a steady stream of the Vegas-style nightspots, restaurants and stores that are opening in the wake of Borgatas successful debut in July 2003. The casino has smashed revenue records set by the citys 11 other casinos and is credited with drawing a hipper, younger crowd to the city.

Other developments:

•The Quarter at Tropicana. Billed as the biggest non-gambling expansion in Atlantic City history, the three-story, Havana-themed complex opened this winter with more than 40 restaurants, nightclubs and stores. Tenants include Latin-themed eatery and club Cuba Libre, blues club The Sound of Philadelphia, high-end live music lounge Tangos and 32 Luxe Lounge, an exclusive nightspot with European bottle service.

The development, distinctly Las Vegas in style with palm trees rising toward faux-sky painted ceilings, also houses a comedy club, a karaoke bar, an Imax theater, a new location for New York eatery Carmines and a Blue Mercury spa. Its part of a $280 million expansion at the 24-year-old Tropicana Casino that also brings a 502-room tower. (Information: 800-843-8767, tropicana.net.)

•The Pier at Caesars. Caesars and developer Sheldon Gordon hope to emulate the success of Las Vegas The Forum Shops with this upscale, $175 million dining, retail and entertainment complex, scheduled to open in early 2006. Built on a pier over the Atlantic Ocean and connected to Caesars casino by a sky bridge, the massive, four-story development will house nine high-end restaurants and nightclubs, a spa and nearly 100 upscale stores such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. (Information: 888-810-5500, thepieratcaesars.com.)

•Borgata expansion. Modeled on Las Vegas mega-casinos with glitzy restaurants, nightspots and Dale Chihuly sculptures hanging from the ceiling, the revolutionary-for-Atlantic City casino resort already is in the midst of a $200 million expansion that will bring more gambling floor space, restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment. Its expected to open next spring. And with revenue soaring (up 40% in the first quarter of 2005) and rooms selling out, the casino announced plans last month for a second, $325 million expansion that will bring 800 more hotel rooms by 2007. (Information: 866-692-6742, theborgata.com.)

Showboat, Caesars and Ballys casinos also are sprucing up their aging boardwalk entrances, and Casino Commission officials say at least two casinos (Resorts and Showboat) are considering adding hotel towers.

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