It looks like 2013 is going to start with some major changes at a couple Atlantic City casinos.
Nobody is saying anything on the record, but rumors are growing stronger by the day that two long-faltering properties are in the process of being sold.
Down at the western end of the Boardwalk, it looks like some solvable legal issues are the only things keeping Internet gaming behemoth PokerStars from buying The Atlantic Club (formerly ACH, Atlantic City Hilton, Bally's Grand and Golden Nugget).
If you're wondering why a poker-intensive outfit would buy a casino when the game is not really a major money-maker for any gambling den (at least not relative to all the other casino games), the consensus among those-in-the-know is that PokerStars wants to establish a beachhead (pardon the pun) in anticipation of New Jersey legalizing online gaming. A major part of any such legislation is expected to be the requirement that digital wagering must be conducted from a land-based, bricks-and-mortar casino. The company would also be well-positioned in the event Congress legalizes online gambling on a national level.
Moving up the Great Wood Way to midtown, the buzz is that several interested parties have been scoping out Trump Plaza Hotel-Casino, and that a sale should be consumated sometime during the first quarter of 2013.
We hear that among those slamming doors and kicking tires at the casino-hotel that, in its late-'80s heyday was the Borgata of its time, is a person who at one time was actively involved in the Plaza's day-today operations.
Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from all this is that even as AyCee's gaming industry continues to be kicked around by forces out of its control (out-of-state competition, Hurricane Sandy), there are those who still see value—and a future--in the beleaguered seaside resort.
Scarduzzio cooks up a Sandy benefit
Superstar Philly chef Chris Scarduzio—who operates Mia at Caesars Atlantic City and Scarduzio Steak Sushi Lounge at Showboat Atlantic City—is heading up a Sunday fundraising banquet to help raise money for Caesars Entertainment employees still struggling to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Scarduzio's Table 31 inside the Comcast Center at 17th and JFK Boulevard will host 'Savor for Sandy,' which will feature serving stations representing the culinary operations at all four of Caesars Entertainment's AyCee properties: Caesars, Showboat, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City and Bally's Atlantic City. All money collected will go directly to the Wish Upon A Hero organization for disbursement.
"I jumped at the opportunity to give back to the community and to help those who are in dire need by offering to host Savor for Sandy," said Scarduzio.
"I know people from Philly and South Jersey will rally around this cause and bring their appetite to support their coastal neighbors, all while enjoying a wonderful night of great food and company."
Among the offerings Sunday will be mango-papaya-habanero guacamole, warm corn tortillas, roasted plantain empanadas with chipotle aioli and cotija cheese, tuna ceviche tostada, all from the Harrah's culinary crew, and house-made boudin blanc with a red onion confit and Dijon vinaigrette over a warm potato salad, assorted sushi and hand rolls including peppered tuna crunch roll and salmon avocado roll, courtesy of the stove jockeys at Showboat.
The dinner takes place from 6 to 11 p.m. General admission is $100. For reservations and info, go to http://savorforsandy.eventbrite.com.
There's no question the musical programming at Atlantic City's 12 casinos is decidedly au courant these days. But there is apparently still room for the occasional old-school gaming-hall headliner.
Friday and Saturday, British crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, who has been headlining pretty much since the first legal gambling den opened in 1978, performs at Harrah's. Given the timing of the date, it probably isn't unreasonable to expect to hear a Christmas carol or two in addition to such Hump hits as "Release Me" and "The Last Waltz."
Show time is 9 p.m. both nights. Admission is $77.50, $62.50 and $47.50. For tickets, call 800-736-1420, or go to wwww.ticketmaster.com.