Three Strikes And Millennial-Targeted Expo Is Out Of Business In Atlantic City

[toc]Just three weeks into the 15-week schedule, Showboat pulled the plug on the Atlantic City Fan Xpo (ACFX).

The casino planned on hosting a different expo every weekend in a 150,000 square-foot exposition area. Without an operational casino, Showboat operators thought this could draw the coveted millennial demographic to the property.

ACFX blames closure on “issues beyond their control”

In a June 16 announcement on the Expo’s Facebook page, the group did not offer many specifics about why ACFX was abruptly closing its doors:

“Due to matters beyond our control we are postponing operations until further notice. We are providing refunds for advance ticket sales for any weekend for which we are not opening.”

A subsequent post on June 25 was just as cryptic:

“Folks, we love Atlantic City and we love the amazing Jersey Shore. As a result of issues beyond our control we are on hold. As soon as we can we will let you know what is going on…….We thank you for your support and your belief in the rise of Atlantic City.”

Showboat hosted three events before closing up shop

ACFX did manage to host three events before shutting its doors. The first weekend ran over Memorial Day weekend, and featured areas dedicated to esports, cosplay, and board games.

The site followed it up with a weekend dedicated to locals, then wrapped with another board game-themed weekend. Ticket prices ranged from $19 for one day to $299 for the entire summer series. The company will issue refunds for tickets for cancelled events.

The impetus behind the project was to attract the younger, millennial demographic of customers. This group is notoriously difficult for casinos to recruit. When the Showboat announced the project, the hotel’s owner, Bart Blatstein explained why he thought the expo idea would work.

“Gamers and esports is the largest sport in the world,” he said. “It crosses all lines — male, female, all languages and backgrounds.”

Esports was central to the concept. The House of Blues Theater served as the central hub for esports activity at ACFX. Apparently, after less than a month, the visitors drawn in by esports and other offerings was not enough to keep it going. The expo ran in the convention center, so another possibility is that Showboat executives determined there was more money to be made renting out the space.

Millennials remain elusive in Atlantic City

The quest for millennials is tough in Atlantic City. The failure of the expo is not the only experiment gone wrong, either. Just a few months after introducing skill-based slots from GameCo, Caesars (now FanDuel) yanked the machines from its New Jersey casinos, citing lack of return.

Other casinos, like Tropicana, are still giving skill-based games a go. Meanwhile, Caesars is trying to draw in new customers with tactics like hosting an esports competition.

Still, it seems the only real, proven driver of new, younger customers to these brick and mortar properties seems to remain New Jersey online gambling for the time being.

Image credit: John Arehart /

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About the Author

Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media and online gambling world. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for Welman has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.