I grew up in the shadow of Atlantic City so I’ve been sad to hear about the casino closings and the loss of jobs that are going with it. Unfortunately this has been a long time in coming and it seems like America’s Favorite Playground didn’t do a while lot to prevent it.
I’m old enough to remember when the casinos first moved into Atlantic City. At the time of their initial openings there was only legal casino gambling in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The casinos injected a cash flow into the city that in my opinion went a long way to improve the city. While it never was white picket fence America it wasn’t exactly Camden either.
Then other locations started legalizing gambling but they were so far away that it didn’t really affect A.C. In the northeast there was the Foxwoods casino but that only took a small bite from the overall casino pie. It was at this point that Atlantic City should have been looking into alternative industries to support the city. When Las Vegas was facing a serious downturn in their tourism market they made a sweeping change and became a family destination. In my opinion it seems that Atlantic City’s death knell came when neighboring Pennsylvania legalized gambling. Most of the casino traffic in A.C. came from the Philadelphia market but now that they had their own casinos there was no longer any need to plan a trip to the Jersey shore when they can just hop on a bus or the El to go to their local casino.
Atlantic City is not without hope though. They went from a major tourist town in post-World War II to a blighted city then bounced back with the ushering of casinos. Hopefully the city that I do have such fond memories of can bounce back again. The problem is can they do it this time without taking decades?