The Philly Inquirer has an article highlighting the unprecedented job losses that the Atlantic City region is about to face. It’s certainly going to be a challenge for the city and the state. While the state will need to focus on retraining and matching these workers with new jobs, the other side of recovery is what to do about Atlantic City itself.
This quote by mayor Don Guardian just seems wrong to me.
“At $50 million [Revel], it’s certainly a bargain-basement price for a brand-new facility. It’s finding the right buyer, meaning having the financial wherewithal, and then that buyer finding the right brand to come in and run it,” he said.
While it may make sense to retool Revel for another casino given the construction of the building, the idea that we need to simply find the right “brand” is misguided. Gamblers aren’t abandoning Atlantic City because they prefer the brand of their local casinos. They prefer the location. Atlantic City has lost its monopoly on east coast gaming and it will have to face the fact that casino gaming is going to make up a far smaller portion of its tourist economy.
Atlantic City will benefit from standard quality of life and urbanist infrastructure upgrades. Asbury Park was able to improve its downtown and boardwalk without casino gaming after being labeled a ghost town by Weird NJ in the late 1990s. Atlantic City needs to follow its lead and work on small scale projects that bring residents, offices, and retail to the downtown.
The city is facing similar issues to New Jersey’s other urban areas. What makes it different is its beachfront and the failed revitalization attempt of casino gaming. It should be able to use the same tools that helped revitalize portions of Newark, New Brunswick and Asbury Park while also leveraging its unique assets.
I’m still an optimist when it comes to Atlantic City’s future. Here’s to hoping decision makers get a little more grounded in their attempts.