Working in a ravaged economy and competing with new slot parlors in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, N.J., is now looking to the lucrative gay and lesbian travel market to save the day.

In Atlantic City, the casino conglomerate Harrah's is making a big push to entice gay gamblers to their four local casinos. Aside from placing advertisements in gay publications (including The Advocate), Harrah's is hosting "Out in Atlantic City," a week of gay-themed parties and events, from September 25 to 27. Gay stars and favorites like Amanda Lepore, Lance Bass, and former stars of The L Word will touch down in southern New Jersey for the festivities.

Citywide, Atlantic City is developing gay-themed marketing programs after studies have shown gay travel to be one of the most lucrative niche travel markets. Atlantic City, the nation's second-largest gambling market after Las Vegas, is under the gun to raise revenue after a number of gambling operations have opened in nearby Pennsylvania. The economic slowdown has had a tangible effect on the economy of Atlantic City, a place very much dependent on people opening their wallets for meals, shows, and blackjack tables.

Jennifer Weissman, regional vice president of marketing for Harrah's Entertainment Inc., says reaching out to gay customers is a fair-minded -- and smart -- thing to do. "The important message here is that we have to change the face of Atlantic City," Weissman told the The Press of Atlantic City . "We have to provide new and unique reasons to visit Atlantic City."

Tags: World, World

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