There has always been a certain amount of sex appeal associated with casinos—Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as Rick and Ilsa steaming up a bar/casino in the movie Casablanca; the Rat Pack swinging into the Sands or the Desert Inn in circa 1950s; even Hunter S. Thompson describing a slightly seedy and decadent Las Vegas in his 1970s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
It’s an image that has even survived to modern times in movies such as The Hangover, which essentially show Las Vegas as a kind of pan-sexual playground where almost anything goes; a message that is supported by recent ad campaigns such as “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” and the bizarrely sexual spate of commercials aired by The Cosmopolitan, which seem to hint that a lot of deviant activity takes place within its walls.
So far, all these illusions of sexual encounters within gaming resorts have been just that—illusions, at least from a casino operator perspective. Undoubtedly human encounters take place at casinos, as they would anyplace where large number of people gather and booze is allowed; but it’s not like operators are actively fostering the action. At least, not yet…
The line between sexual perception and reality at gaming resorts blurred a bit more this past month with the opening of Scores Atlantic City at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Hotel, reportedly the first “adult-themed entertainment complex” (re: strip club) to open inside a casino resort. Make no mistake, this is not your father’s bump-and-grind joint—the $25 million,36,000-square-foot edifice offers seven unique venues in a themed environment, according to the project’s press release. These venues include the Electric Fantasy Club, an 8,000-square-foot showroom that features multiple stages, a 160-square-foot LED board, VIP seating and cabana-style private rooms where exclusive performances are available; and the Distrikt, a red-light fantasy corridor that showcases surprise attractions and the possibility of one-on-one time with Scores entertainers and where, surprise, private rooms are available for exclusive performances with additional fees. Surely, this enterprise will bring a whole new meaning to the ongoing “DO AC” advertising promotion.
Taste aside, is the inclusion of an on-premise “adult nightclub” necessarily a bad move by Trump Taj Mahal? From a national viewpoint, it is certainly not good—it is hard to argue against the fact a strip club brings a certain amount of vice to a community, and you can be sure this will become another arrow in the quiver of anti-casino forces. From a regional and local viewpoint, it certainly appears the Taj is willing to sacrifice whatever remains of its family trade to embrace the more tawdry side of casino entertainment, but this is a path the casino has been going down recently. Indeed, by my estimation, Scores Atlantic City dovetails nicely into the Trump Taj Mahal partnership with Ultimate Gaming, a pioneer in the popular sport of mixed martial arts ultimate fighting, which is bringing for-money poker to casinos with its Ultimate Poker franchise. It would appear that the Taj is attempting to capture the time of every man between the ages of 18-40 that ventures into Atlantic City.
And, frankly, this may not be a bad marketing strategy for Trump Taj Mahal going forward. Like most Atlantic City gaming properties, the Taj has seen its gross operating profits plummet of late. Few would argue that Atlantic City is heading for some kind of economic reckoning; there is simply not enough revenue to go around and a shakeout is due. In such a scenario, only the operations that can incite loyalty from distinct and growing player bases will survive. It seems misguided, but with its emphasis on activities and ambiance that appeals to the young adult male, Trump Taj Mahal may be taking a step in the right direction.