The transformation of the Golden Nugget could serve as a metaphor for what Atlantic City hopes to accomplish in a broader sense.
In a previous life as the Trump Marina, the casino-hotel with the yacht basin in the Marina section of Atlantic City had fallen on hard times indeed. Its drab exterior looked more like an aging government office building than a place where folks could expect to have a good time, and the dreary interior met those low expectations.
However, the building’s new owners—the Landry restaurant folks who also own the Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nev., as well as a slew of familiar dining brands—embarked on an 11-month, $150-million, 11-month total makeover of the Jersey Shore gambling resort, and the results were unveiled late last month in an official grand opening of Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget.
The results will be a pleasant surprise to anyone who recalls the desperate circumstances of the old Trump Marina.
To be sure, the new Golden Nugget is still a cozy property, but now it does an excellent job of using its space by integrating lively cocktail lounges into the gaming floor and setting off amenities that have some specialness.
An example—W2, a Wine and WiFi bar that allows customers to get some serious work (this story is being written from the room), check email or just chill while sipping on reasonably-priced wine that’s dispensed by the glass and half-glass. There’s also a fancy coffee machine if you’re on the clock. The glass doors of the lounge are thick enough to keep out the sounds of the casino while offering a view of the passing parade on a mezzanine.
Casino owner Tilman Fertitta’s $150 million was well spent. Among the improvements and additions to the new Golden Nugget are more than 700 refurbished guest rooms and suites; a far brighter and lively casino; a new swimming pool experience; solid, good-value restaurants including a couple of culinary stars; an appealing entertainment schedule, and, importantly, some surprises such as the Wine and WiFi Bar, a rock-star art gallery, and a jeans store that also lets folks sip wine while trying on denim.
“I was looking to do different things,” casino owner Fertitta said. “I saw this space on the mezzanine above the casino and thought, ‘Why not a WiFi lounge that could be a refuge.’ … With our swimming pool, we wanted to be different. No one in Atlantic City keeps their (outdoor) pool open all year long. Our pool area will be open all year with Jacuzzis and firepits.”
The Golden Nugget’s attempt at resurgence is a microcosm of what faces Atlantic City and its gaming industry, which is now actively taking on the challenges posed by gambling in Pennsylvania, Delaware and now New York and Maryland. From the looks of the new Nugget, it’s a worthy role-model for the larger effort.
The slogan at the Golden Nugget is “Everything Gold is New Again”. So here’s what’s new at the Golden Nugget …
The Casino. The color scheme throughout the resort is primarily gold and red, and you’ll see plenty of those hues in the casino that has a bright, lively feel. There are two restaurants integrated into the casino, the Grotto, which is Italian, and Lillie’s, which is Asian, sushi and noodles. There are a couple of bars and lounges, including the Rush Lounge with live entertainment. Guests are welcomed into the casino through a party pit.
The Hotel. All of the Nugget’s more than 700 rooms and suites have been refurbished with pillow top mattresses, flat screen televisions and modern bathrooms. Plus there are convenient touches, such as electrical outlets on workspaces and nightstands.
The Pool. The H2O Pool + Bar is brand new. On the 5th floor, there’s a rooftop pool and Jacuzzi area with cabanas and daybeds overlooking the A.C. skyline. There’s a poolside bar and firepits. It will be open year-round.
Restaurants. In addition to the two restaurants in the casino, two others deserve special mention, The Chart House and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse. The Chart House is located right on the water with a wonderful view of the Golden Nugget Marina. Vic & Anthony’s Houston location has been voted one of the Top Ten Steakhouses in America, and many feel it’s the best steakhouse in A.C. There is also a 24-hour cafe and a buffet that have been re-done.
Surprises. Besides the Wine and WiFi Lounge, check out the art gallery of Ronnie Wood, the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. Wood received formal art training at Ealing Art College in London, prior to his musical career. His art subject matter is often celebrities, including the Stones. In the retail area of the casino, Sip & Zip is a jeans store with free wine samples to make clothes shopping a bit more festive. And, oh yes, there’s a vending machine where you can buy gold: up to one-ounce bars and coins, pegged to current gold prices.