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Sky-high rollers

A casino-resort gives predictably posh treatment to those rare gamblers who can drop millions in A.C.

for the two Borgata jets, "in frequent use" flying high-rollers to Atlantic City.
for the two Borgata jets, "in frequent use" flying high-rollers to Atlantic City.Read moreKelly McGlauflin is the pilot

Have you taken a private jet to the Borgata? And did the butler bring you a nice drink after you were settled into your suite? Yes? Then you must be among the highest rollers.

Those of us who like an occasional casino hop - we play some craps or blackjack here, test out the roulette tables and a slot machine there, grab a nice dinner, maybe see a show, and enjoy the general passing parade - we're the bread-and-butter business for Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and the lesser gambling towns.

And then there's the small percentage of customers for whom casino-resorts, and frequently one certain casino- resort, become a second home. These folks enjoy the feel of a gaming table, and have the money to support that pleasure: perhaps several hundred thousands of dollars a visit, going into millions over a year.

They wager the most of all casino visitors, usually in ongoing business. At their sky-high level of play, they get the best comps. But just what does that mean? What can they get that the rest of us couldn't simply buy, if we could afford it?

For answers to that question, we spoke with Joe Lupo, the senior vice president who oversees marketing, table games, slots, and entertainment at the Borgata. The Atlantic City casino-resort, which brought a high-end atmosphere to town in 2003, is arguably responsible for the way other casinos have remodeled and redirected their services to reflect luxe.

Rarefied luxury can become a high roller's standard. Like other casinos, the Borgata does not release figures about what it takes to get high-level comps or how many people get them, but Lupo does allow that "a few hundred players qualify for upper-tier service."

The Borgata, Lupo says, houses these top-of-the-top customers in high-design residences in the casino building and the attached Water Club - about a dozen suites in all, with high amenities and services. Those, plus other suites, are often loaded on weekends, when many high-level players are in the house.

"They use their comps to pay for the accommodation," Lupo says, "which include a suite with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a spa, and butler service - the highest degree of service that any room in any casino-hotel can provide. When you walk in the door, you see a two-story marble fireplace, rooms with rare woods . . . and typically, a Jacuzzi, entertainment systems, floor-to-ceiling glass with panoramic views, and large bathroom facilities. We have butlers who furnish the suites and provide custom service."

The butlers, a combination of personal aide and private concierge, are ready to persuade a chef to cook a special meal, custom-designed by the guest. They also help guests prepare for parties.

"Many of these customers entertain in their suites," Lupo says.

And some arrive in one of two jets the Borgata keeps at a private terminal at Atlantic City International Airport, where the staff is on call around the clock.

"It's one of those amenities that make us a little bit different," Lupo says. "The jets are in frequent use, especially in the Eastern region," the center of Borgata's critical mass of customers.

"A customer can call at 2 in the afternoon and once they pack their bags and head to the airport, whether it's Pittsburgh or Virginia or North Carolina, we can probably be there within two hours and pick them up."

The relationships these customers build over time with the pilots, butlers, and staff - including Borgata management - translate into business on a first-name basis. At this level, Lupo says, "being able to shake hands and know faces" is what makes the relationship not just special, but comfortable.

"These customers get a lot of custom treatment, whether it's in the room or on the plate," he says. This extends to comps for in-room spa and salon services and in private dining rooms. (The Borgata boasts several celebrated chefs.)

"You and your guests walk downstairs, escorted by your host and your butler," and into the Borgata's 1,000-seat Music Box showroom - intimate for such spaces - "and to a front-row seat," Lupo says. And sometimes, to a private show. Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Paul Anka, and Frankie Valli have performed in private shows for top-tier customers.

Want an invitation? Well, it's a roll of the dice. Actually, many. I