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) -- Will

Boardwalk Empire

do for Atlantic City what Snooki has done for the Jersey Shore? That's the hope after the HBO series premiered on Sunday.

The historical drama, directed by Martin Scorsese, is set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City, a city that's a far cry from the state of the gambling center today. The series stars Steve Buscemi as Enoch Thompson, a mobster based on the real-life Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, who was the ultimate power-broker in Atlantic City.

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Atlantic City is now hoping

Boardwalk Empire

will renew tourism interest in the decaying city -- but it also serves as a stark reminder of just how much the once bustling boardwalk has changed. And how far it has fallen.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk is stripped of its 1920's glamour, so much so that

Boardwalk Empire

wasnot even filmed in the resort town, but on a massive set in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Indeed, Atlantic City is half the size it was in the 1920s, with a population of just 35,000. In August, the city's gaming revenue dropped 11.3% to $347.9 million.

Aside from the recession's paralyzing affect on gamblers, Atlantic City is also facing increasing competition from surrounding regions like Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, which recently incorporated table games in casinos.

It's no surprise then that casino operators are fleeing Atlantic City for prospects in bustling international markets like Macau, China.

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Pinnacle Entertainment

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announced earlier in the year that it is abandoning its plans to build a $1.8 billion casino on the Boardwalk, and subsequently put its 19 acres of land, which was formerly the site of the Sands Atlantic City, up for sale.

Pinnacle purchased the property in 2006 from Carl Icahn for $270 million. It demolished the casino, but halted development in 2008 because of problems accessing financing.

MGM Resorts

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is also in the process of divesting its 50% stake in Borgata, which it owns along with

Boyd Gaming

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Last spring, New Jersey regulators deemed MGM's Macau business partner, Pansy Ho, unsuitable, due to claims that her family is involved in Chinese organized crime. Thus, as MGM prepares for an initial public offering of its Macau asset -- which would strengthen its relationship with Ho -- New Jersey regulators want to hold a hearing regarding the partnership. But CEO Jim Murren has said he wants to put the matter behind him and continue with the growth opportunities in Macau.


Morgan Stanley

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folded its development of Revel casino, which was Atlantic City's one hope of any newness. Morgan Stanley has already invested $1.2 billion on the project, which was slated to cost $2.6 billion. The opening of Revel had been postponed last year until 2011 after financing ran out.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently proposed a state takeover of the casino industry, removing it from its sordid roots and turning the boardwalk into a family-friendly destination.

It's clear Atlantic City needs any help it can get, and it hopes to find some reprieve in any media attention it can muster from what promises to be another HBO hit.

Here's a look at how Atlantic City plans to capitalize on the buzz surrounding Boardwalk Empire....

Atlantic City wants visitors to know it's home to the HBO series, and is going all out adorning the Boardwalk with billboards and advertisements on The Pier at Caesars, banners at Boardwalk Hall and near the Atlantic City Expressway.

Harrah's Entertainment

is the official marketing partner for

Boardwalk Empire

, offering a room rate of $19.20 (the year Prohibition went into effect) at its four properties on select dates throughout September. Harrah's has already sold out of the 1,920 rooms it made available at the discounted rate.

Harrah's Caesars Atlantic City casino is also holding a

Boardwalk Empire

sweepstakes, where one winner will have the chance to "live like the king of the Boardwalk," with access to a personalized suite for a full year. Five first-place prize winners will also receive a

Boardwalk Empire

weekend at Caesars Atlantic City including airfare, limo transportation, suite accommodations, a stocked bar, a Bloomingdale's shopping spree and dinner at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant.

Prohibition prix fixe menus for $19.20 will be offered at 28 restaurants along the Boardwalk from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. Participating casinos include Trump Taj Mahal, Bally's Atlantic City, Resorts Atlantic City, Tropicana and Showboat, among others. The restaurants will also offer a

Boardwalk Empire

-themed cocktail.

The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA) redesigned its Web site to reflect the era in which the series is set. It includes promotions, historical information and information about the show. The ACCVA is also working on "Prohibition Tours" of Atlantic City that will include visits to locations features in the

Boardwalk Empire


The Atlantic City Free Public Library will feature a photography and costume exhibit of high-profile figures of the 1920s. The library also screened a documentary about Enoch "Nucky" Johnson during the debut weekend.

--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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Jeanine Poggi


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