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Travel: Vegas Vibe

Jack Smith

Overhead, the chihuly glows deep red and orange, its tendrils seeming to squirm like a colony of electrified tube worms mysteriously levitating in midair. "Isn’t it beautiful?" asks the young lady from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City’s newest and—at $1.1 billion—most costly property.
The crowd gathered beneath the bilious glass sculpture nods in agreement. After all, the artist is Dale Chihuly, creator of the glass-flowered ceiling at Bellagio in Las Vegas and the hottest name in casino art. As the newcomers move into the casino, they can be heard murmuring to each other, "It’s just like Vegas."

This is high praise. In the lexicon of gaming, Las Vegas, sand-locked and distant, has the tradition and the glamour. By comparison, Atlantic City is…well, for East Coasters, it is nearby. But then, Borgata is not really an Atlantic City casino. "What we’re offering is an experience this city’s never seen," says Borgata CEO Bob Boughner, "one that’s more exciting, more luxurious, and more sophisticated." Of course, sophistication is in the eye of the beholder.

There is no denying that Borgata is handsomely appointed. The high-stakes table games area is richly paneled in deep, dark woods and accented with statuary, prints, and antique Chinese urns. The bars are sleek, comfortably furnished, and lit by oversize, state-of-the-art plasma screens. Eleven restaurants serve cuisine ranging from the Italian fare created by Luke Palladino to the French-Chinese offerings of Philadelphia’s Susanna Foo. Everywhere, the lighting is subdued, the noise level low. Upstairs, the suites are roomy and understated, some with as much as 5,000 square feet of space and 14-foot domed ceilings.

Every casino has to have an overarching theme, a unifying element such as the canals at the Venetian or the art collection at Bellagio. At Borgata, it is the oldest fantasy of all, and it features the Borgata Babe. At any other casino, scantily clad waitresses are taken for granted, part of the background. Here, they are acknowledged as temptresses and muses, a seraglio amid the slots.

Borgata’s slogan is "Go to Your Happy Place," but it is difficult to decide which is the happiest spot of all. At the Gypsy Bar, the menu encourages patrons to "Smoke to the filter. Make the first move. Try something new." In the suites, bed pillows flip to say "Tonight" or "Not Tonight." One magazine ad for Borgata depicts a couple passing up dinner and ordering nothing but two cans of whipped cream.

If the nonstop innuendo is at odds with the casino’s otherwise tasteful ambience, well, that is just the point, says Boughner. "It’s all in good fun. We don’t take all this stuff seriously, and we don’t expect anyone else to, either."

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, 609.317.1000, www.theborgata.com

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