John Koster is fully embracing his new role as regional president of Caesars Entertainment’s three Atlantic City casinos. The 30-year gaming industry executive was appointed in June to oversee Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, and Tropicana in Atlantic City, as well as Harrah’s Philadelphia and Horseshoe Baltimore. Even with the daunting task of leading a recovering industry in a competitive market, Koster has about 400 million things in his favor. Caesars Entertainment is committing $400 million to its Atlantic City casinos over a three-year span.
“We’ve had massive competition in the Northeast, obviously, over the years that have impacted Atlantic City, not in a positive way,” Koster said during an exclusive interview with NJ Gambling Sites. “But..with the largest gaming company in the United States stepping up to the plate with our massive capital investment here, I think we’re going to be able to really recreate Atlantic City, at least in terms of from a Caesars’ perspective.”
Opportunities for Caesars Entertainment in AC
Having most recently been in charge of Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Hotel & Casino, Koster is enthusiastic and clear-eyed about his charge in Atlantic City.
“This, I think, is the biggest opportunity that I’ve seen in my entire career, which by the way spans many countries over many years,” he said inside the rebranded Caesars Sportsbook in Caesars AC.
“This is a great opportunity for Caesars (Entertainment) to really help Atlantic City, to develop Atlantic City, to reposition Atlantic City, and to bring in more customers on the Caesars side of the equation than we’ve ever brought in before and introduce them to this great location and these three great properties.”
Renovating the Boardwalk ‘flagship’ of the Caesars Empire
The focal point of the reinvestment will be Caesars Atlantic City. Roughly $190 million will be used to reinvigorate the Boardwalk casino hotel.
“We view (Caesars) as our premium product in Atlantic City,” he said. “This one will be our flagship in Atlantic City. It’s got the great location. It’s got the Caesars name. But, quite frankly, it had been neglected for a number of years in terms of capital investment.”
Hundreds of hotel rooms will be renovated in the Ocean and Centurian towers this year. Two celebrity-chef restaurants will be unveiled soon. Upgraded slot products and a renovated casino floor are on the way.
And, Koster teased a new entertainment concept in the Wild Wild West Casino inside Caesars.
July 2022 is the target date for much of the work to be completed, he said.
More to be done in the Marina, too
Between Caesars AC and Harrah’s Resort AC, Caesars Entertainment is spending about $170 million on hotel room renovations.
Brand new Atrium Tower suites and mini-suites have already opened at Harrah’s Resort.
Next up is a $76 million makeover of about 960 hotel rooms in the Waterfront Tower, Koster said.
Two new restaurants — Rum Point Crab House and The Baywalk — debuted this summer. So did Vibe Dining at The Pool After Dark.
The buffet space at Harrah’s is going to be converted into a food court and bar. Coastal Craft Kitchen & Bar is also slated to receive some “love,” Koster added.
Online presence of Caesars Entertainment will benefit AC
Sports betting and online casino is another area where Caesars Entertainment is investing.
After buying sportsbook operator William Hill, Caesars Entertainment rebranded nearly all of its U.S. retail books and launched a mobile app under the Caesars Sportsbook name.
The Caesars Rewards loyalty program is now connected with sports, online, and land-based casinos across the country.
That, Koster said, will ultimately benefit its Atlantic City casinos.
“I think it is a synergy that we’re going to have that others are going to have a difficult time competing with because we have more locations than anybody else,” he said.
Photo by Bill Gelman