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EDITORIAL: Collapsing casinos mean it's time for new plan

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Atlantic City is at a crossroads.

No, wait, scratch that. Atlantic City was at a crossroads seven years ago, when gaming options were just coming to life in nearby states, especially Pennsylvania. Rather than have a really hard conversation about how the state could compete with its new competitors, New Jersey took the gaming junkie's approach — stay at the table, head down, hoping to eventually hit on a winner.

It's worked about as well, too. In 2006, with the first signs of danger threatening its East Coast monopoly, the casinos took in $5.2 billion in revenue. Last year, they brought in a bit more than half that total.

There have been plenty of high-profile failures when it comes to New Jersey and gaming, but the chief one was the decision to limit betting to a South Jersey city that's not easily accessible to most of the population. Now, the ongoing conversation about promoting Atlantic City as a tourism destination and “right-sizing” the casino industry is a bit like telling the victim of a fatal heart attack that he should have gone easier on the pork rinds. Atlantic City will not succeed by convincing people that it's the place to bring the wife and kids on a vacation, or as a romantic getaway with spas and expensive dinners. For 30 years, it's been about one thing — gambling. That's not the kind of message you change overnight, and given how fast the city is eroding, overnight might not be fast enough, anyway. The five-year trial run that Chris Christie and Steve Sweeney spoke of is destined to end in disappointment.

That will move the conversation where it should have gone a long time ago — moving casino gaming beyond the city's borders. For years, that effort has been thwarted by racetrack owners, who feared competition, and narrow-minded South Jersey political figures who insist everything below Sayreville is its own sovereign entity entitled to an industry all its own. That kind of parochial thinking has to go out the window immediately if New Jersey is to regain its swagger at the betting table. At a minimum, a casino in the Meadowlands would be a way to lure New Yorkers who have yet to take advantage of train or plane service to A.C. That might mean weaker casinos will close in the Shore town, but that's happening already. The question is whether the stronger casinos will collapse before the state makes the right call.

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NIck said:
The beginning of the article states Atlantic City brought in 5.2 Billion in revenue. This revenue is from gambling. Creating a tourist spot or another shopping mall does not bring in 5.2 Billion dollars. Open your eyes and quit kissing the unions asses. Open up gambling state wide in NJ. Stop losing the revenue and taxes to other states. Change is inevitable and the ones who refuse to change become extinct.

July 7, 2014 12:13 pm

Shobie said:
A new plan is definitely needed, just not this authors plan. The cure for a headache is usually not to take off ones head. A casino in north jersey would not only send the weaker casinos into bankruptcy, but possibly some of the stronger ones as well.

What is needed is a plan to transform the town and entire region into a year round destination with multiple draws that will generate interest. The casinos are certainly one such draw, a greater focus on entertsinment seems a likely second, shopping could easily be a third draw and of course the shore is there as well. Maybe an entire campaign could be developed around Eco tourism and all of the amazing outdoor activities that are right here, besides the beach, like boating fishing, kayaking, surfing, hiking, biking, birding, the list is amazingly long but always forgotten.

If Atlantic City doesn't want to turn out like Detroit, it must diversify and bring multiple industries to the region to create jobs and generate tourism.

July 7, 2014 7:34 am

Jill said:
Did it occur to anyone to make it easier for people inside the state to get to AC? I tried to figure out how to take public transportation to get there for a conference several years ago, only to find that I would have to go into Philadelphia first. The AC experiment has been doomed not because the concept was fundamentally flawed, but due to poor planning and lack of visionary thinking about how to build the area as a family oriented destination location.

July 6, 2014 6:35 pm

FRank said:
It all about North Jersey!

July 6, 2014 10:34 am

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