The Decline of Atlantic City

Atlantic City Today by Dylan Hans

Summers at the beach are perfect. The weather, the waves, the atmosphere are all examples of the allure the Jersey Shore has to offer. That, and Atlantic City.

The nightlife of Atlantic City proves to be dreary and definitely declining.
The nightlife of Atlantic City proves to be dreary and definitely declining.

Walking through the many advertisements I find myself lost in one of Atlantic City’s premiere casinos, clearly in shambles amid an economical meltdown.

As the “Gambling Capital of the East Coast,” Atlantic City has been an east coast casino hub for nearly half a century. Many know AC from stories about the nourish vice and corruption or from the fictional tales (based on fact) told on the HBO hit series, Boardwalk Empire. However, today you get a true sense of Atlanta by visiting a well-known casino, like the Borgata.

The Borgata still stands at the top casino on the Atlantic City strip, however still has many weak nights.
The Borgata still stands at the top casino on the Atlantic City strip, however still has many weak nights.

While Atlantic City was profitable decades ago it never matched the prosperity and excitement that Las Vegas offers, even though business moguls like Donald Trump used to have a valued stake in the cities profits. In the past ten years alone, five casinos have gone bankrupt. The city is currently in severe decline. The unemployment rate is almost 15%. The tax rate has increased substantially, and the boardwalks are near empty, with small shops closing at an alarming rate.

In the Borgata amid rows of slot machines sloth-like creatures wait until they run out of change, and chain-smokers crush out more cigarettes than they have chips.

Revenue fell by over three million dollars last February. Granted, when I visited this Fall it was still considered the “offseason,” but casinos in AC may not produce high profits, if any, this summer. Most of the old casinos are now empty parking lots.

The excitement that a casino should have, with people consistently moved by the adventures of winners or losers, is simply not there. While gambling is still seen as a positive for the people of AC, they no longer connect it to the “opportunity to get lucky,” as one tourist might put it. It is more like, “the opportunity to waste money at an empty casino.”

This is what it looks like on any given day at the Tropicana or Harrah's.
This is what it looks like on any given day at the Tropicana or Harrah’s.

Inside the casinos are relatively safe, but the same cannot be said of the surrounding city. The shops are quite contemporary but the crowd isn’t. Outside gypsy taxi drivers and prostitutes await those who leave.

Atlantic City will never reach the profitable success unless it turns around the civic environment. The homes and streets that circumvent most of the downtown casinos are unsafe, and intoxicated gamblers are targets for robbery.

Yet the rest of the island of Atlantic City is very fun, peaceful, and safe. Vetnor City, Margate City, and Longport each provide a pleasant beach setting to its homeowners.

One wonders why this same sense of safety cannot be brought to the area that has so much tourist and employment potential Horseshoe has already received a reputation as being unsafe and causing impending decline on neighboring casinos. The many students of the region do not frequent the casino or if they do, they proceed with sobriety and great caution. With the Maryland casinos emerging as a gambling powerhouse on the east coast, Atlantic City faces further competition

It’s currently difficult to bring young people who aren’t from the New Jersey area to live in AC, which maybe is directly related to the tax increase in 2014. With budget cuts and a lack of stability in casino ownership, anxiety rules. Even locals have been reluctant to go anywhere near a casino floor.

All said, I hope to return this summer to see if the season makes a difference. Atlantic City occupies a special place, in my heart, as I spent summers in Longport and many nights at casino restaurants Its one time rise was accompanied by hope and a desire for prosperity, and of course much needed profit for the local economy. It will be a difficult climb, and an unpromising one, but can we see it rise again?

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