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These Hotel Rooms Are Not For Rent

February 23, 1987

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Instead of arriving by bus at this seashore gambling resort, imagine stepping out of a limousine and breezing past the front desk lines.

A butler in a tuxedo greets you as you get off the elevator at the penthouse level, leading you down a hallway studded with antique oil paintings and crystal chandeliers.

As he opens the door to a vast, multilevel suite, complete with marble Jacuzzi seating eight, imagine the best part of all: Your stay here is free. That is, unless you count the wad of cash that hotel management is betting you’ll leave on the gaming tables downstairs.

All 11 casino hotels in Atlantic City reserve suites and apartments for their high rollers, or ″rated″ customers, but few do it with the abandon of the Sands and Golden Nugget.

At the Sands, President Bradley Stone says, ″rated″ means the suites are reserved for ″someone who is willing to play to the risk of $100,000 or more on a trip.″

Typically, even entertainers don’t stay in the suites, and they’re not for rent at any price even if that means they stay empty sometimes.

″We could fill them every night of the week with a $10,000 customer, but first, it’s the wear and tear on the furniture, and second, it builds the expectation that they’ll always get it,″ Stone said.

As for the entertainers, ″if they take up one of those suites, that could be a $150,000 cost to the casino″ if a high roller goes elsewhere, he said.

Instead of numbers, the rooms have names, such as the Versailles, Valentino and Pompeii suites at the Sands or the Chairman’s Apartment at the Golden Nugget.

In the Versailles suite, a button near the Jacuzzi opens a billowy curtain parts above, revealing a skylight. A bubble machine is available to add to the atmosphere.

Nearby is a cubicle called the Habitat, giving customers who lie down inside a choice of climates: Baja Sun, Tropic Rain, Jungle Steam, Spring Showers or Chinook Winds.

Robes are even available monogrammed with a customer’s initials, and baskets in each bathroom - sitting next to the television - are filled with expensive toiletries.

The Golden Nugget also spares no expense, including $5,000 marble toilets and $14,000 coffee tables, said butler Mark Starrett. Antiques adorn many rooms, and cards kept on each customer indicate what goodies - chocolates, fruits, flowers, liquor - should be waiting on arrival, he said.

Ceiling domes are gilded with real gold, painted with cherubs, loaded with ornate molding or set with Tiffany glass designs.

There may be a harsh reality to the glitter, said Arnie Wexler, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.

″Casinos know what compulsive gamblers are all about and feed that,″ he said. ″These people have low egos and get all excited over limousines, free dinners and suites.″

But at the Sands, they call the suites a marketing strategy.

″It typically costs $300,000 to redo a suite,″ Stone said.

″It’s sometimes difficult to tell the board of directors that, but in casinos, the games are all the same, so you’re marketing the amenities,″ he said. ″If I can play the same games everywhere, I’m going to the place that’s the nicest.″

Keeping the high rollers happy extends far enough at the Sands that the casino floor was redesigned to move the baccarat table closer to the elevator. The slot machines were pushed closer to the Boardwalk door, Stone said, to accommodate day trippers.

With 20,000 customers wandering through a casino on a typical Saturday, ″we don’t want our top-end customers to get lost in the shuffle,″ he said.

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