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Atlantic City aims to counter bad publicity with ad campaign

By Daniel Kelley

(Reuters) - Atlantic City's supporters have launched an ad campaign to reverse what they see as an onslaught of bad publicity about the New Jersey seaside resort, where four of 12 casinos have recently announced plans to close.

Full-page ads to appear on Thursday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newark Star-Ledger and Wall Street Journal show the city's beach earlier this month during a free concert by country stars Lady Antebellum attended by 65,000 people.

Atlantic City Alliance, the marketing agency behind the city's "Do AC" slogan, bought the ads, which will run two days after the city's newest casino, the $2.4 billion Revel, said it would shut down after less than three years in business.

"The image is that this city is dead," said Liza Cartmell, the president of the Atlantic City Alliance. "In reality, our boardwalk is packed, our beaches are packed. We have a lot of reporters coming down to do stories on these closures, and they say, 'Why can't I get a room?'"

Room occupancy rates in Atlantic City have topped 95 percent, the alliance says, while some hotels that are not associated with casinos are experiencing double-digit growth.

Cartmell hopes the ads will highlight non-gaming activities as Atlantic City tries to reposition itself as a family-friendly leisure and entertainment destination.

Gaming revenue for Atlantic City, which once held a lucrative East Coast gambling monopoly, has dropped from its 2006 peak of $5.2 billion to $2.8 billion, according to state gaming regulators.

The trend follows the introduction or expansion of gaming in neighboring states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.

The Revel's closing could leave Atlantic City with a third fewer casinos than at the start of the year, when 12 were in operation.

In July, Trump Plaza Hotel said it would close in September. The Atlantic Club casino was sold and shut down in January and the Showboat Atlantic City, one of the city's largest properties, has said it will close at the end of August.

The alliance wanted the ads to run in the Philadelphia and northern New Jersey newspapers to reach the resort's traditional consumers.

The ad in the Wall Street Journal, which is identical to the one in the other papers, was meant to reach the investment and financial community, Cartmell said.

(Reporting by Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia)

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