SH: What are your main responsibilities as executive vice president?
JJ: I oversee all casino functions within the property and supervise all projects and events with respect to our slot and table game customers, as well as manage all entertainment and services.
SH: What makes the property so appealing to the public?
JJ: Our property has a certain elegance and quiet refinement. The ambiance is one of sophistication and polish. The Hilton is smaller than some of the other casino hotels in town. We are programmed to market ourselves within our four walls, but we’re doing more. For example, we have the best beach access and think we have the best beach site in Atlantic City.
Also, our players feel safe here. Our location and size make it easier for us to maintain good security. We rarely have any security problems, and those we have had were minor incidents. It is certainly proportionatel fewer than our counterparts at other parts of the city.
SH: Describe your facility.
JJ: Our property has 1917 gaming machines and 92 table games. The casino floor is 60,000 square feet, which makes it a small, boutique floor. We have 804 hotel rooms and 3,400 employees. Our occupancy rate for 1999 was 96.1 percent and profit figures for 1999 were very rewarding. Cash flow was up $11 million for the year 1999 and we earned $48 million before taxes, depreciation and amortization.
SH: Who are your customers and how do you attract them?
JJ: We look at each type of game. Everyone knows that in the past few years the slot activity and profits have surpassed table games. However, both are vital to our bottom line, and we react to our customers in both categories. Some things we offer are cashback at slot machines and reimbursement of travel and food expenses for slot and table game players. We do not have rigid standards, but rather look at the net worth of both areas.
Also, we do not ignore the mid-week players, who are our “bread and butter” customers. Our commitment to them is the same as the weekend high-roller types. We will begin to offer mid-week entertainment once a month. Hilton is also positioning some of our special tournament events and restaurant specials for the middle-of-the-week patron.
We categorize our players into three segments. Our local market is a large percentage of our customers, as is our inner market, which we define as coming from within an hour’s drive. For the outer market customers, we try to offer appealing hotel incentives and room rates.
SH: Atlantic City seems to be getting smaller in the sense of fewer independent casinos due to mergers and acquisitions. The most recent is the buyout of Caesars by Hilton’s parent company, Park Place Entertainment.
How do you think this will affect the Atlantic City Hilton?
JJ: One immediate benefit I see from the company’s growth is a type of sharing that should result. The Caesars brand is world renowned, and their ability to feature superior entertainment is unquestionable. The Hilton can capitalize on that by either sharing some of their entertainment, or offering accommodations to those customers who come to Atlantic City for the entertainment. People will have the opportunity to move around and experience multiple properties.
SH: As one of the smaller properties, do you have any expansion or renovation plans scheduled?
JJ: We have additional plans on the books for expansion, but until we get a directive from our parent company, we will not do anything specific. However, we have transformed our simulcast area into the Boardwalk Slot Arcade, offering multi-coin nickel slots. It is doing extremely well.
SH: What do you predict for the gaming floors of each property? Will you be experimenting with any new types of games?
JJ: As for the gaming benefits, we can all profit from the enormous clout of Park Place Entertainment (PPE) in the marketplace. Already, our casinos have exclusives on such games as Slingo at PPE-owned Bally’s Park Place, Wild Wild West and here. And, now that Caesars is part of the Park Place Entertainment “family” Slingo debuted at Caesars on January 24.
Our group gets many games first to test, and we try to keep our casino floor on the cutting edge. Placement is the key, and we typically test a game for 10-20 days. Feedback is vital, and our casino hosts are constantly talking to customers about their preferences. We hold two meetings each week to discuss slot products and services.
Also, we have introduced some private label Hilton products, like our new Dizzy Dolphin machine that Hilton itself designed and had manufactured.
We expect the new technology of coinless slot machines will be introduced sometime in the second half of this year. There are regulatory issues to address. It will be another offering that appeals to particular players, but will not be the only system used in the casinos.
SH: What impact will the development of the marina district have on the Hilton since you are on the other side of town?
JJ: It will attract those people who like cluster properties. The marina will have multiple sites, just as the center of the Boardwalk does now. For those people who like to go from place to place, it will be fine. The Atlantic City Hilton will try to maximize the opportunities available, as a result of the greater influx of people, by promoting our property as easy access with easy parking in a more subdued atmosphere.
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