The New Jersey Casino Experiment Has Failed

AtlanticCityHow low can Atlantic City casinos go? The numbers for 2013 aren’t looking very good — for N.J.’s gambling resort, or for casinos across the country.

Last year, Atlantic City’s casinos brought in $235 million in gambling earnings. That’s bad — 35 percent less than 2012 —and even worse given the following:

  • The 2013 number includes the introduction of the much ballyhooed Internet gambling that was supposed to be the latest and greatest thing to save Atlantic City. Apparently not.
  • The 2013 earnings are still down 35 percent even when being compared to those of 2012, a year that included Superstorm Sandy. The storm shut down casinos entirely and slowed business for months after.

It’s not getting any better this year, either.

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Shore Trip Confessional: Peeing on the Garden State Parkway

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Last week I played hooky from my day job and drove to Cape May. The goal: Lock myself into a hotel room facing the ocean and work on a possible book project while enjoying what I consider a profound luxury — room service.

I was more than halfway there, on the Garden State Parkway just over the bridge between Ocean City and Sea Isle, when the front passenger tire blew. I pulled off to the side of the road, and after the shaking in my hands stopped, reached into my wallet to pull out my AAA card.

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Five Observations About Trying to Find a Date on the Internet in 2014

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When I was in my 20s, and stinging after a break-up, I would sometimes place a personal ad on Craigslist. I did so half seriously, half on a lark — I know a couple who met on Craigslist and who are now happily married with two children. So why not?

The answers were often entertaining, and sometimes random: once an ex-boyfriend replied (no, you’re really not a nice guy). And I actually met two men there: One was a former Navy Seal who occupied my time for a summer; the other was an environmentalist who showed up in a pleather duster and talked in a way that made me consider shimmying out of the bar’s bathroom window.

I find myself on the single side of things again, and even though I’ve vowed to not date until April, I placed an ad in Philadelphia and South Jersey anyway, just to see what would come of it.

In two weeks, I got about 60 responses (some of them were doubles, obviously guys sending the same response to anyone who posted). I noticed five things in those 60 replies. What I’ve quoted here has not been altered, except to redact the names of the not necessarily innocent.

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All of the Philly Bars I Went to In My 20s Have Closed

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Photo | Lucy’s Hat Shop. Author not pictured.

The end of Sugar Mom’s marked it: The bars of my youth are gone. The places I haunted as a 20-something are closed. Alfa, Sugar Mom’s, Bar Noir, Mad River, Lucy’s Hat Shop — kaput. Add Khyber Pass to that list, too, because while Khyber today is a very nice restaurant, it looks nothing like it did 10 years ago: a grimy club bar with writing on the bathroom walls and a second floor that shook when the band played too loud — which was always.

Philadelphia was not the same back then, either, not when I got my ticket to drink legally in 2001. No one was trying to re-brand the Gayborhood for marketing purposes. The dining scene was Le Bec Fin — period. No one was trying to convert everything into a condo. Of course this was before the domination of Facebook and Twitter, but we’d never have created a hashtag to make ourselves feel better for choosing Philadelphia. We were not city snobs. We didn’t need to tell people why we hung out in the city, or scream for validation. We just did.

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The 5 Worst Wawa Parking Lots in the Philly Area

3-headhouseOh my dear Wawa. I love your coffee. I love your hoagies. I love that I can leave my house and be at two of you within 10 minutes.

But you’re far from perfect. I hate that you closed down some of your shore locations because they couldn’t sell gas. I hate that you took so long to repair those shore Wawas after Sandy.

But most of all, I hate Wawa parking lots.

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Sandy: One Year Later

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ - JAN 13: The Casino Pier Star Jet roller coaster submerged in the sea on January 13, 2013 in Seaside Heights, NJ. Clean up continues 75 days after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012.

Star Jet roller coaster, Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Photo | Shutterstock.com

October 21st, 2012, was one of those impossibly gorgeous Jersey Shore days, where even though the thermometer said the temperature was in the 60s, the sun was so strong and warm that I stripped down to my tank top while watching the Atlantic City Marathon.

Later, when I was having drinks on the lawn of Congress Hall after their TEDx Cape May Conference, the talk wasn’t just of the beautiful weather that day, but of a maybe storm. I say “maybe” for a reason. These were lifetime shore residents, old salts really, who were used to this: The alarm would sound about a storm because forecasters showed it hitting New Jersey in one of a dozen possible storm paths. And then it would slam into Florida, turn out to sea, or just fizzle out.

Not this time.

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Finally, Dunes for the Jersey Shore

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Finally.

That was my initial response to the news that officials in Ocean City and Mantoloking have started eminent domain proceedings against ocean-front homeowners who have refused to turn over strips of land in front of their homes so dunes could be built there.

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Miss America Can’t Save Atlantic City

Wrapped in brown construction paper in my office are two Miss America composites that I bought last year from an antique store in Cape May. One is from 1950, the other 1959. In the 1950 photo, the women are standing together on the boardwalk, in one-piece bathing suits with thick shoulder straps and bottoms that cut straight across their thighs. In 1959, they’re decked out in evening gowns, belled at the bottom, white gloves up past their elbows.

I should hate Miss America, for two very big reasons.

First, I should despise an event that celebrates bikini bodies, bleached smiles, shiny hair and that all the best girls are pretty pretty pretty! There is no sparkly blanket of scholarship big enough to smother the old fashioned values the pageant celebrates. As long as being judged on how you look in a bathing suit counts a sliver of a percentage toward who wins the crown, Miss America will always be a beauty pageant.

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WATCH: This Old House’s “Jersey Shore Rebuilds”

Kevin O’Connor is just like you. Well, maybe not in the job department. He’s been the host of This Old House since 2003.

But when it comes to vacations, he’s a typical Jersey guy.

“My point of contact now in New Jersey is primarily LBI. I spent a week there every summer,” he said. Plus, he gets Thanksgiving thrown in too since his parents now have a house on the island (he grew up in Maplewood, N.J.)

I talked to O’Connor Tuesday as he drove to N.J., but he wasn’t going on vacation. He was headed to the last week of filming for This Old House‘s “Jersey Shore Rebuilds” project, which begins airing on Oct. 3 on PBS.
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