The New Jersey seaside resort town of Atlantic City seems woefully unable to catch a break these days—battered by Hurricane Sandy, beset by a general lack of interest among young partygoers, and losing its flagship Miss America pageant in 2006. A.C.’s most ambitious new hotel-casino, Revel, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week, an announcement coming just over a year after the shuttering of the three-year-old “ACES” party train service that tried to court young gamblers from New York City.
But now, perhaps, there is reason for A.C. to rejoice—Britain’s most legendary partier since Austin Powers, His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales, is going to be in the area. Prince Harry, who served in Afghanistan with the British Army, is making a trip to the US this spring primarily to support causes related to injured veterans, including a stop in coastal New Jersey to meet locals whose homes and towns were devastated by Sandy last fall. The press translates this, naturally, as “Prince Harry is going to go party at the Jersey Shore”—that region famed for fake-tanning reality-TV revelers with nicknames like “Snooki” and “The Situation.”
Atlantic City’s weakened power players are likely hoping that not only will Prince Harry have an appetite for nightlife when he shows up in Jersey, but that he has their casinos in his sights. When it comes to attempting an economic turnaround, the city has tried hard. The Revel casino, the city’s first new one since 2003, was an ambitious stab at bringing the high-end experience that has worked so effectively in Las Vegas, courting young and affluent travelers with celebrity-chef restaurants, bottle-service nightclubs, and a luxury spa. Its bankruptcy filing came just 11 months after it opened, listing $1.5 billion in debt in comparison to its $1.1 billion in assets, and it’s unclear whether a fresh $250 million in debtor-in-possession financing will be able to turn its fortunes around.
Seeing as he’ll be in the area, it might do well for the owners of Revel or any one of Atlantic City’s other resorts to see if Prince Harry at least wants to stop by for dinner. There is, after all, a juicy precedent. The last time the 28-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth II came stateside, it should be noted, he was photographed partying all over Las Vegas, including most infamously partaking in a game of naked billiards in a VIP suite at the Encore Wynn resort. Those grainy snapshots surfaced almost instantly on TMZ.com.
Billionare casino tycoon Steve Wynn allegedly took care of the bill for the young royal’s Vegas escapade, and it appears to have reaped some results: Hotel search sites reported a spike in searches for Las Vegas getaways in the days following the prince’s escapades, and the city’s Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority took the opportunity to purchase a full-page ad in USA Today insisting that the leaking of nude photos of Prince Harry was an egregious offense worthy of Sin City’s toughest vigilante justice: “We are asking for a shun on these exploiters of Prince Harry. We shall boycott partying of any kind with them. No bottle service. No bikini clad girls. No Bucatini from Batali. In other words, we will not play with them anymore.”
The prospect that Prince Harry may bring his renowned antics to the Garden State’s coastline has even Governor Chris Christie worked up about it. As Talking Points Memo thoroughly covered, Christie assured presumably terrified New Jersey residents, “if you trust me, all will be fine … during his entire trip, I will be with Prince Harry…The prince has said he apologizes for his conduct back then. Lots of young people make mistakes.”
A spike in internet searches is one thing. Turning a hypothetical royal visit into a marketing opportunity is a different beast entirely, and given that the prince’s handlers are likely still wincing from the Vegas scandal, an offer of a gratis stay in yet another American casino town that likely wants to capitalize on the publicity may be met with a resounding “no.” That’s not to say the city shouldn’t try—and given A.C.’s dual plight of being stricken by both superstorm and recession, perhaps they do have a selling point.
To be fair, visiting disaster-battered coastlines is par for the course for Prince Harry—who, we should point out, really does do extensive charity work throughout his travels thanks to his Royal Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, which he co-chairs with his older brother—and it doesn’t guarantee that packed pool parties will follow. Case in point: Haiti, for which Prince Harry has extensively solicited charitable donations, is still years from a spot on spring-breakers’ radar.