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The Future of Atlantic City

How will AC recover after the closing of several casinos?

Glenn Townes | 10/1/2014, noon
The cards may be stacked against Atlantic City, but the house has played long shots before and won.
Atlantic City DOAC.COM

The cards may be stacked against Atlantic City, but the house has played long shots before and won.

After suffering through one of the worst economic crisis in its history, the once quaint little seaside resort town may be slowly starting to crawl back to its once prosperous past, according to some city officials and residents. The plunge into the financial abyss started back in 2006 when revenues for the city's eleven casinos began to decrease---a trend that remained steady for the next seven years and reached a head this year. In January, the Atlantic Club became the first notable casualty. In June, workers at the Showboat; Trump Plaza and the billion dollar empire, Revel Casino began receiving notices that the gaming halls were shutting down and about 10,000 employees would be furloughed by the end of September.

According to Mayor Don Guardian and some other city officials, there is a big push to make Atlantic City more of an entertainment city with a niche focus away from being a gaming city. For example, Guardian said a multimillion dollar marketing strategy hyping travel and tourism to the city is underway. “We want to offer high quality entertainment to vacationers---shows, concerts and major events in Atlantic City,” Guardian said.

In the gambling mecca of the U.S., Las Vegas city officials regularly tout the city as a key entertainment venue and not just a gaming center. For example, performers such as Cher, Celine Dion and Diana Ross are regular mainstays at several of the theaters in and around Las Vegas. Guardian said Atlantic City needs to aggressively promote a similar marketing tactic.

In October 2010, the state assumed control of the fiscally flat city, in the hopes AC would return to the profitable and popular tourist resort. Under the Christie backed initiative, the city was able to spread its more than $9.5 million budget deficit through 2015. Benefits of a state mandated plan would allow some of AC's debt to be deferred or eliminated from the state government for staffing and other services.

The plan flopped.

The economic insolvency of the city was inevitable, the governor said in an interview. In a recent radio discussion the outspoken Republican governor said, Atlantic City was no longer the gaming behemoth of the east coast---a distinction the resort town held for decades. “The bedrock of Atlantic City was built when it was a monopoly, and it's no longer a monopoly,” Christie said. “We always knew we were going to have to downsize.”

Christie added that at least forty states have some kind of gaming entertainment and a flourish of gaming parlors across the east coast in the last decade has severely impacted revenues at the Atlantic City casinos. In a last ditch effort to save the cash strapped city, officials approved a plan to build the billion dollar Revel Casino in 2007. Funding for the project ran out in January 2009. Investors came through and finished the project and the resort opened with much fanfare in June 2012---, but closed this past September.