In fact, the billion-dollar Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa (search) has bagged the tradition of placing a copy of the religious text in each room’s nightstand — and declined to accept Bibles from Gideons International, which often donates the books to hotels.
Instead, the super-modern gambling venue in Atlantic City, which is set to open in July, will have a “library” of several different religious texts in the lobby.
“Our method here is to be inclusive of all religions,” said Michael Facenda, director of marketing services for the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. “As much as we respect the Gideon Bible, it would only represent one group.”
Some local religious leaders think the real motive was to enhance the casino's rebel image and get a little attention in the process. “Casinos like the bad-boy image,” said Pastor John Scotland of the Community Presbyterian Church in nearby Brigantine, N.J. “This is just perfect for them.”
The move by the Borgata, which will be the only Atlantic City casino not to keep copies of the Bible in its rooms, has caused a stir in the area.
“It’s caused a lot of people to talk about the Borgata," Scotland said. "That’s what their desired outcome was.”
Facenda denies keeping the good book out of the rooms was a PR move. “It wasn’t a publicity stunt,” he said. “It’s trying to accommodate all religious sectors.”
Whatever the reasons, Scotland and other religious leaders in the community aren’t surprised.
“Casinos are not generally a place where one finds a lot of spirituality," said Rabbi Aaron Krauss of Temple Beth El in Margate, N.J. "The existence of Bibles in a place like that is an anomaly.”
The relationship between the local religious community and the casinos in Atlantic City has always been strained, according to Scotland and Krauss.
“Most of the churches have gone on record to say that gambling is a scourge that causes problems in society,” Scotland said.
Krauss said there was significant opposition from clergy when casinos were first proposed as a way to bring business to the area in the 1970s.
“Since then, casinos have been supportive of some charitable activities and some have been religious,” he said. “I’m very grateful for their support. But the relationship between casinos and the local religious community is not a strong one.”
Gideons International, a non-profit that donates Bibles to venues like hotels, began that tradition in 1908 at the Superior Hotel in Montana, according to Tia Gordon, spokeswoman for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“There was nothing really behind it,” she said. “It was just another amenity. It caught on from there.”
Gordon added that despite the ubiquity of Bibles in hotels, there are no set guidelines on the custom.
“When you travel, you want safety and security, and that’s what’s represented by a Bible in your room,” she said. “But it’s not something that’s a policy in most hotels. They don’t have to do it.”
Krauss said he has never found the placement of Christian Bibles in hotels offensive.
“I would prefer that they did have them there, even though they’re not Jewish Bibles,” he said. “People in hotels very often find themselves alone, separated from families, and some have found help in reading the Bible.”
But he also believes it’s the Borgata’s prerogative not to have them.
Scotland, for his part, doesn’t buy the casino’s reasoning.
“I don’t think there’s any validity to it,” he said. “Casinos could invite other religious groups to put copies of their texts in the rooms.”
A spokesman from Gideons International declined to comment on the matter, saying the organization’s policy is to not make statements to the press.