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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Don't discuss the economy with customers.

That's the recommendation from the head of the city's Casino Association, who warns that talking with gamblers about how bad the economy is can be a losing proposition.

Joe Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said Atlantic City casinos have been hit hard, just as other businesses have nationwide. In a monthly column in Casino Connection, Corbo says the last thing gamblers need to be reminded of is the tanking stock market or how much money they have lost recently.

Making small talk with customers about the current national concern may seem like a good way to bond with them, but "not really," Corbo says.

"Our customers come here to escape. They don't want to be reminded of declining 401(k) balances or investment portfolios," he wrote. "If we engage them in discussion about the economy — or even worse, our personal circumstances — we're reminding them of the very things they're trying to forget."

Instead, Corbo recommends politely changing the subject and suggesting customers forget their problems and enjoy themselves.

In a brief interview, Corbo said Tuesday that no threats or punishment will be handed out to casino workers who do discuss the economy with customers. He said customers come to Atlantic City to escape for awhile, and no-economy-talk is one way casinos can help them do that.

Corbo says in the column the approach is part of a push for better customer service that city casinos can provide to differentiate themselves from out-of-state slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York that have been hurting the resort's bottom line.

Last year, Atlantic City's 11 casinos saw their gross operating profits plunge by nearly 25 percent, and the resort is in its third straight year of declining revenues.

Barbara Basile, a dealer at Bally's Atlantic City, said Corbo's suggestion was good in theory, but many gamblers want to talk with dealers about the economy and their personal financial woes.

"It's like the saying that the bartender is the psychologist on the street — our jobs are the same way," she said. "They talk about the economy all the time. It's a way for them to get the pressure out. They're not just cutting loose with their wallets; they're cutting loose with their hearts."

Basile said the best form of customer service is listening to what the customer wants to talk about, as long as it isn't bothering anyone else at the table.

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