Three Strikes for Atlantic City

The decline of a once-great gaming town is accelerating.



It hasn’t been a great week for Atlantic City.

First, Caesars has indicated that they won’t close the Showboat if they can sell it. While this sounds like good news, it’s not so great for Revel and the state’s $261 million investment in it. Showboat’s not carrying the same debt as its northern boardwalk neighbor, so it may be more attractive to companies looking for a foothold in the Atlantic City market, like Hard Rock. 

Second, the inevitable looks like it’s going to happen: a casino or casinos will open in other parts of the state. Late last year, Gov. Christie threatened Atlantic City to get its act together — quite a turn after he begged Bruce Springsteen to play at Revel when it first opened. He signaled the same thing last week.

A Mass. venture capitalist has been nosing around the idea of putting a casino complex in gentrifying Jersey City, though I’d put my money on a casino opening at the Meadowlands first. State Senate President Steve Sweeney has said the issue could be put up for a vote in November of next year  and that he thinks North Jersey gambling could help Atlantic City.

State politicians turning their backs on Atlantic City isn’t entirely surprising since the state’s taken a huge hit as the casino industry’s declined. At its peak in 2006, taxes on gambling and parking at Atlantic City casinos generated over $500 million for the state. In 2013, that number was just under $215 million, and 2014’s not looking like it will be great year either, especially if both Revel and Showboat close.

Third, the national media has descended: both USA Today and Reuters have published their death knells in the last week. Given Christie is using New Jersey as a petri dish for a possible presidential run, this kind of coverage doesn’t look so great for his national aspirations.

Assemblyman Chris Brown introduced three bills this week that aim to both keep casinos in town and workers in their jobs. It’s a nice idea, but I don’t think it’ll get far. The tide has long since turned on Atlantic City.