|By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia
InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 07, 2011--ATLANTIC CITY -- Emblazoned with its bright-red corporate logo, the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort has been a fixture at Boston Avenue and the Boardwalk since the mid-1990s. But its famous name is about to fall.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts has severed ties with the gambling hall, one of the city's oldest and smallest, which has struggled against both its bigger local brethren and intense Pennsylvania competition.
Hereafter, the casino will be called ACH, according to mailers recently sent to loyal patrons.
Hilton said it was terminating the franchise-license agreement May 30. Although it set no timeline for removal of its brand name, the hotel company made it clear that the Hilton logo and all of the interior and exterior signs were to be changed.
"There is a standard de-branding period to make sure the Hilton name and brand identity is protected," John Forrest Ales, director of global brand public relations for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, said Wednesday. "We cannot provide specifics about this termination but are acting in the best interest of our guests."
A franchise-license agreement allows a hotel owner -- in this case, Colony Capital L.L.C. of Los Angeles, which owns both the Atlantic City property and the Las Vegas Hilton -- to operate under the brand, in accordance with its standards.
Spokeswoman Tina Belluscio said ACH management had no comment at this time.
The Atlantic City location was dropped from Hilton's portfolio May 30, Ales said: It is no longer listed at http://www.hilton.com, and guests are no longer able to redeem Hilton HHonors loyalty points there.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts is the flagship brand of Hilton Worldwide, which operates, manages, or has franchise-license agreements with casinos all over the world.
The Atlantic City property opened Dec. 12, 1980, as the Golden Nugget. In 1996, its owner at the time, Bally Entertainment Corp., was acquired by Hilton Hotels Corp., which rebranded it as a Hilton.
Hilton also has terminated its franchise-license agreement with the Las Vegas Hilton casino hotel, effective Jan 1. Ales said the license terminations in the top two U.S. gaming markets "were not related."
Robert and Karen Verney of Old Bridge, N.J., said they received mailers about the name change in Atlantic City. They brought with them to the casino Tuesday a mailer offering free slots dollars that read: "New Name. Same Great Place."
Robert Verney, 72, said the name change "doesn't matter to me, as long as the [slot] machines are new and working." He was waiting for his wife to check them in for a one-night comped hotel stay, compliments of the casino.
But 66-year-old twins Yvonne Allen and Sarah Israel of Newark, N.J., found losing Hilton's redeemable points troubling. They stayed at the hotel two nights this week, at full price.
"This will cause a problem," Allen said, as she moved her sister's wheelchair into Patsy's restaurant for dinner. "We used to get those cut rates. Now, I don't know if I want to come back." Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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