Casino Guide 2012: New Jersey

For more than 30 years, Atlantic City had a stranglehold on East Coast gambling. But that stronghold has since loosened as other states have gotten in on the action. This is good news for the rest of us, as the increased competition has compelled AC to step up its game.

Revel The big story in AC this year is the highly touted debut of Revel, a $2.4 billion mega-complex featuring dozens of high-end restaurants, the four-story HQ nightclub, a world-class spa and much more. If you love music, you’ll be a regular at Revel’s Ovation Hall, a 5,500-seat venue that’s already hosted the likes of Beyonce, Maroon 5 and the Black Keys. Or kick it old-school with Barry Manilow on Sept. 8. Revel is also the only smoke-free casino in AC. Another big plus: You can actually see the ocean from the gaming floor.

Kicking off AC’s casino-upgrade trend in 2003, the Borgata has just finished a $50 million renovation focused on more than 1,500 hotel rooms (think Egyptian cotton linens and 46-inch flat-screen TVs). Now, the rooms in the original tower measure up to the lofty standards of those in the ritzy Water Club, which was added in 2008.

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Also on the bay side of town, the former Trump Marina is now the Golden Nugget. The $150 million in upgrades includes mod rooms, new restaurants and bars, a spa, shops, and showrooms.

Back on the boardwalk, the Atlantic City Hilton is no more—at least in name. It’s now the Atlantic City Club Casino Hotel. After the name change in February, the rooms and gaming floor went through significant renovations.

Resorts Boogie Nights, the popular retro dance party that started at Resorts, has now moved to the Tropicana. Resorts has fired back with its new Night Fever dance club.

Trump Plaza may be up for sale, but it’s still dropping some knowledge this summer, partnering with the Franklin Institute on the Identity: An Exhibition of You exhibit through Sept. 3.

The Trump organization also sold Steel Pier to a group of local investors, which promptly enacted a $21-million renovation project. Head to the furthest end of the pier, away from the boardwalk, to enjoy a drink over the ocean.

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Trump Taj MahalSpeaking of the Donald, the Trump Taj Mahal renovated its Ego Bar to accommodate shows by the Almost Angels dancers (not strippers) Thursday-Saturday.

The celebrity “appearances” continue unabated at The Pool in Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Dusk at Caesars Atlantic City. And if you do make it over to Caesars, take a short detour to Harry’s Oyster Bar at Bally’s next door. Opening just last year, it’s a standout new addition.

If you like to shop, more good news for you: The Walk added a 1,200-spot parking garage to its outlet area.

Also worth noting … While you can bet on horse racing at Atlantic City casinos, there’s no horse track in town. For that, you’ll need to go to Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Also, sports betting isn’t legal in New Jersey—yet. Gov. Chris Christie is pushing for it. Loudly.

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!