Is anyone surprised that New Jersey’s efforts to revitalize Atlantic City are failing?
The news that AC’s latest hope for revival, Revel, is on the verge of bankruptcy and foreclosure is no shock. As Trump’s multiple bankruptcies over the years demonstrated, casino lenders are the biggest losers, next to bussed in seniors lured by a free roll of quarters, in AC.
Vice has always been the key to Atlantic City’s economic viability. For good reason. The place is a dump. You have to drive through a swamp to get there. It is very inconvenient. The lure of doing something enjoyable that is forbidden elsewhere has been the key to Atlantic City’s economy since the days of Nucky Thompson.
Now that legalized gambling is available in more convenient places and liquor is legal most everywhere, Atlantic City is doomed, unless it comes up with a new vice to make available.
Governor Chris Christie is a smart guy. He has no know this. I always figured that his opposition to making gambling legal elsewhere in New Jersey was a political trade off. Like he agreed to hold off allowing slots at racetracks to give AC some time to recover in exchange for support of something else on his agenda. At least I hoped that was the case because nothing else really makes sense.
If that’s what happened, its beginning to look like a bad and expensive bet. New casinos have opened in Philadelphia to compete with others in Delaware and Maryland. Why would gamblers take a longer trip through a swamp when they can gamble, see a show and shop closer to home? Racinos are thriving in New York. New Jersey’s horse breeders are leaving, taking their jobs with them and leaving open space behind to be developed.
The political bet doesn’t look to be paying off either. Senate President Steve Sweeney, one of the Democrats said to be considering a run against Christie next year, is bloviating to score political points over Revel’s failure, according to The Star Ledger:
“The casino appears to be burning cash at an alarming rate,” he (Sweeney) wrote to David Rebuck, director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, and asked him for a detailed financial report on Revel’s stability by Friday.
“I am concerned that you and the division have failed to live up to your obligations under the law,” Sweeney wrote. “I refuse to stand by and simply hope that the Revel will decide to meet its obligations.”
As if it is the regulator’s fault that Revel is burning cash and that the divisions’s obligations under the law supersede the laws of economics. As if Sweeney’s refusal to stand by and hope will make a difference in Revel’s and Atlantic City’s viability.
WHAT ATLANTIC CITY NEEDS IS A NEW VICE
If New Jersey is going to have a gaming industry in the future, Atlantic City can not be the only gambling venue in the state. Slots in the Meadowlands are a no brainer. But that is not enough. A casino in Camden would have been a good idea a few years ago, before the Philadelphia area casinos opened. It is probably too late for Camden, again.
But what Atlantic City needs is a new vice to bring people through the swap with disposable cash. Marijuana perhaps?
Laws against marijuana possession are apparently not taken seriously in Atlantic City. The city’s head of weights and measures was recently caught with a joint in his city owned car. He got off with by forfeiting his city job (which technically did not exist anyway) and no criminal conviction. In six months he can get another city job, real or imagined, if his drug tests are clean, according to The Press of Atlantic City.
Colorado and Washington voters approved ballot measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuanna in their states last month. If Atlantic City powers could figure a way to make the city the ganja capital of the east coast, they would be in for another temporary economic boom. It would last until marijuana usage becomes legal in more convenient places.