- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City’s casinos, already betting on the enticing effects of fancy shopping and high-end restaurants, will try to woo more customers by offering direct train service to and from New York City.

The 2-hour Atlantic City Express Service will run from Fridays to Sundays between Atlantic City and Penn Station starting late next year. The board of New Jersey Transit approved a three-year trial of the service yesterday.

The casinos are going after New York City gamblers who don’t have cars, part of a market that falls between high rollers who arrive in limousines and the lower-stakes bettors who take buses.

“Taking a bus just isn’t cool,” Auggie Cipollini, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of the Borgata, said yesterday. “It’s just a different experience.”

The bulk of the service will be paid by a consortium formed by three casino-hotels — Borgata, Caesars and Harrah’s — and will be operated by New Jersey Transit at no extra cost to the agency. The Borgata is a joint venture between Boyd Gaming Corp. and MGM Mirage. Caesars Atlantic City is part of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

Prices and schedules for the service will be determined over the next year, said George Warrington, New Jersey Transit’s executive director.

The casinos will pay $15 million to purchase eight new multilevel rail cars, Mr. Cipollini said. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a state agency that provides money for economic development, will pay $4.5 million to lease four diesel locomotives from Amtrak, said Executive Director Tom Carver.

The trains need both electric and diesel cars to accommodate the types of power used on the Northeast Corridor and Atlantic City lines.

Atlantic City-bound travelers coming from New York by train now must ride the Northeast Corridor line to Trenton, take a local train to Philadelphia and then transfer to the Atlantic City rail line.

The new service would not stop in Philadelphia. It would have a limited number of stops, including one or more in New Jersey, which will be determined by the casino industry in consultation with New Jersey Transit.

New Jersey Transit expects to carry about 1,100 riders per weekend.

Three trains would run on Fridays, eight on Saturdays and seven on Sundays, Mr. Warrington said.

The new train service is coming at a time when casinos are investing millions in Atlantic City.

The Borgata plans to open a $200 million expansion at the end of June that will feature restaurants by celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck and more slots and table poker. Late next year, the hotel plans to open an additional 800 rooms at a cost of $325 million.

In the fall, Caesars Atlantic City plans to open its own restaurant and retail space called the Pier, said Daniel Nita, senior vice president and general manager. The $175 million project is to offer luxury shopping from such names as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Hugo Boss.

Mr. Nita said Atlantic City is trying to appeal to consumers who visit Las Vegas for gambling and shopping. He said Atlantic City has changed in the past few years.

“It’s more than slots and table games,” he said.

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