It's hard to tell whether the problem is a lack of financial resources on the part of Atlantic City's 11 casinos, a dearth of available A-level talent or, perhaps more likely, a combination of the two.
Whatever the reason, there's no denying AyCee's summer entertainment lineup, while certainly boasting plenty of big names, doesn't quite have the star power we've seen in previous years.
As it currently stands, between now and Labor Day, there are but a handful of sizzling, au courant attractions booked in Atlantic City, and three of the gigs aren't even casino-sponsored. Those would be pop crooner Michael Buble (June 11), the current crop of insta-stars in this year's edition of "American Idols Live" (Aug. 18) and "Glee" star Matthew Morrison (July 29), who is tagging along on the New Kids On The Block/Backstreet Boys road show. All three events are at Boardwalk Hall.
Rounding out the hot-'n'-happening quartet is pop diva Rihanna, who along with opener Cee Lo Green, hits Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa July 17.
Not that the menu is totally barren. There is certainly an adequate supply of musical legends due. These icons are led by Paul Simon, who tomorrow makes his Atlantic City solo debut at Borgata. He'll be followed into the Big B on June 18 by three-fourths of The Monkees (as always, Michael Nesmith wants nothing to do with his 1960s TV teammates); Led Zeppelin-lead singer-turned roots-man Robert Plant (June 25); Steely Dan, which hardly ever toured during its late-'70s/early-'80s heyday but which now hits the road apparently nonstop (July 29); crooner Johnny Mathis (July 10); and seemingly bigger-than-ever Frankie Valli (Aug. 26 and 27).
Others making the Borgata scene include country chanteuse Miranda Lambert (June 10); Kid Rock (June 18; he'll be in the Event Center while The Monkees play the smaller Music Box); Peter Frampton (June 24); grungers Soundgarden (July 14); Elvis Costello & The Imposters (July 22); contemporary art-rockers The Decemberists (July 29); Stone Temple Pilots (Aug. 6); The J. Geils Band and Babyface (separate Aug. 12 gigs); and Donny Osmond (sans sister Marie) Aug. 27.
Not that Borgata has the monopoly on music. Elsewhere in town, the sounds will come courtesy of such artists as Snoop Dogg (tonight, House of Blues inside Showboat Atlantic City); Wayne Newton (tomorrow, Resorts Atlantic City); The Go-Go's (June 4, HOB); LL Cool J (June 10 HOB); '70s heavy metal avatars Deep Purple (June 11, Tropicana Casino and Resort); prog-rockers The Flaming Lips (June 23, HOB); Boyz II Men (June 25, Atlantic City Hilton); Sade (July 2, Trump Taj Mahal; Meat Loaf (July 16, Hilton); and Goo Goo Dolls (July 23, Tropicana).
Borgata is also taking the comedy lead with a lineup that features such stand-up stalwarts as Wanda Sykes (June 4); Brian Regan (June 11); Denis Leary (July 2); Jim Gaffigan (July 9); Jay Leno (July 16); Howie Mandel (July 23); John Oliver of "The Daily Show" (Aug. 6); and Jerry Seinfeld (Aug. 13).
Other funny folks due include Jamie Foxx (July 1, Caesars Atlantic City, July 3, HOB); CBS-TV late-night TV host Craig Ferguson (July 8, Tropicana); Andrew "Dice" Clay (July 30, Tropicana); superstar ventriloquist Jeff Dunham (Aug. 6, Taj Mahal); "blue collar" guy Bill Engvall (Aug. 13, Hilton); and multimedia queen Chelsea Handler (Aug. 13, Trump Taj Mahal).
As is the case every summer, there will be a variety of extended-run engagements from which to choose. Vocally speaking, the 10-member a capella group Straight No Chaser returns for a second consecutive summer run at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City (June 21-Sept. 4), while Aussie Motown disciples Human Nature play Caesars Aug. 15-Sept. 3.
Broadway aficionados can avail themselves of the wonderfully staged "42nd Street" (through July 3 at Resorts) and another edition of "Best of Broadway" (through June 29 at Tropicana).
The newly christened Golden Nugget (formerly Trump Marina) will recall the swingin' days of Frank Sinatra and his pals with "The Rat Pack IS Back" (June 22-Sept. 3), and actor Chazz Palminteri encores his breathtaking one-man show, "A Bronx Tale," July 9-27 at Caesars.