Let’s run away to Atlantic City
Let’s feel the wind in our hair
Those lyrics by songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty from the musical Ragtime might just be the last time anyone has said anything good to say about Atlantic City, New Jersey. That show was set at the turn of the previous century.
Atlantic City’s position as a beach getaway for New York and Philadelphia was over by the start of WWII. That’s what caused the state of NJ to allow gambling in that city, and only in that city, in the 70s.
Atlantic City has gone through boom and bust cycles throughout the years, with the opening of splashy new hotels topped only by their epic failures and resulting bankruptcies (many of those properties started with the name of a particular real estate developer, turned reality TV star…. I’m leaving that one right there).
I spent several late nights in AC when I was in my 20s and lived in New Jersey. For me, it was the closest place for me to gamble within a 2-hour drive from my house. I just can’t see why people would WANT to travel there. I needed to find out the reason why I’ve seen other websites write about visiting the hotels along the Boardwalk and Marina.
It only fits that there’s a scheme behind the travel bloggers’ interest in the Atlantic City casino hotels. That’s because some of the casinos are owned by big corporations that partner with major hotel chains.
- Wyndham Rewards and Caesars Rewards (Bally’s, Caesars Palace and Harrah’s)
- World of Hyatt to Mlife (Borgata)
Casinos will also match status from one casino to another in an attempt to lure profitable business to their properties.
Once you have Caesars or Mlife status, you can get status at these casinos:
- Hard Rock (Wild Card Rewards)
- Ocean Casino Resort
So follow this logic, if you can. You might need to re-read this a couple of times to understand all of the steps.
- Get status with Wyndham Rewards. If you don’t have status, you can match from almost any other major program where you have a higher level of status, including those where you’ll get status solely by having a co-brand credit card (IHG and Hilton immediately come to mind).
- Match your status from Wyndham to Caesars Rewards. You want to be sure the status you’re matching will make you a Caesars Rewards Diamond member.
- Once you have that, you’ll get a dining credit, show tickets, no resort fees and even a free trip to Atlantis (although you might want to think twice about that trip).
- Here’s where the world opens up – you can match your Caesars Rewards status to other casinos. You can take your card to the Borgata and match to Mlife Gold, which gives benefits at Borgata but also at Las Vegas hotels.
- Mlife Gold can be matched to World of Hyatt Explorist status.
This sounds great, doesn’t it? In the matter of a day, you can turn the status you received from a $49 credit card (if you have Platinum status from the IHG Select card) into mid-tier Hyatt status which would usually require staying 30 nights to achieve.
If you want a much better explanation of how to do all of these matches and the benefits of each one, please go and check out this post on Miles to Memories, as it’s how I found most of the info for this post.
Here’s the downside of all of this. You’ll have to spend at least most of a day driving around Atlantic City. While you see the pictures of casinos on the boardwalk, most of the city still looks like this.
Maybe I’m jaded because I grew up in New Jersey. I remember how the revenue from gambling was supposed to revitalize the area. Instead, all it brought was a bunch of abandoned lots owned by people hoping some developers would want to build a hotel on their property. From the time you got off of the Atlantic City Expressway until you reached the casinos, you locked the doors of your car and pretended not to pay attention to everything going around just outside your windows.
My memories of the city are different from most:
- I remember bowling at the Showboat Casino Hotel in junior tournaments and later on when I was in college. I hated bowling there at first. Unless you’re a bowler, you won’t understand. When we visited AC, I actually went there to practice until I finally learned how to adjust to those newfangled lanes and approaches.
- One year for my birthday, we went for dinner at the newly opened Taj Mahal casino. I remember thinking that for all the glitz, pomp and circumstance, the food was way overpriced and wasn’t even good.
- I remember the first time I saw the woman on the boardwalk who played a Casio keyboard with her tongue. When she died, her obituary was published in the New York Times.
- My best memory was driving two hours to the Harrah’s Marina casino. I spent 15 minutes at a roulette table, hit four numbers in a row and won almost $1,000. I cashed out and drove the two hours back home.
Those will always be my memories of Atlantic City. When I hear of people making trips to hop from casino to casino solely to maximize their hotel status and milk the comps the casinos are willing to dole out, I get it. I just don’t want to do it.
That part of my life is done. I still gamble for entertainment. I’m not expecting to win. I’m going to be smart with my bets but spending a day bouncing from place to place just to make $100 – $200 by cashing out money won from free play vouchers isn’t how I want to spend my time and Atlantic City just isn’t the place I want to go back to visit.
Your Mileage May Vary
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary