Author Topic: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails  (Read 7857 times)

Metro Jacksonville

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Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« on: September 17, 2014, 03:00:03 AM »
Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails



In an effort to turn its fortunes around, Atlantic City was reborn as an east coast gambling mecca in the late 1970s. In 2011, illustrating the dominance of gambling on the economy, New Jersey's casinos had approximately 33,000 employees, 28.5 million visitors, made $3.3 billion in gaming revenue, and paid $278 million in taxes. Now the one trick pony that promised to make Atlantic City a popular 21st century resort community is falling about, sending the city's economy into a downward spiral. Is this a cautionary tale for other cities looking for a one trick pony of their own?

Read More: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-sep-atlantic-city-when-the-one-trick-pony-fails

urbanlibertarian

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2014, 08:29:36 AM »
They got 40 years and counting of economic activity from casino gambling?  I'd take that.  How many tax dollars were spent?
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aaapolito

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2014, 08:34:22 AM »
I used to go to AC because I grew up in North Jersey.  Unfortunately, I have also watched its decline over the years.

As gambling venues have popped up in NY and Penn., AC became less convenient for the NYC and Philly metro areas. 

I also know that hurricane Sandy hit AC pretty hard and actually took out parts of the boardwalk.  I was actually there for a bachelor party when the hurricane hit.  We had to cut the trip a little short.

I do hope that AC can turn itself around, which will likely take diversifying the attractions and frankly, cleaning up its seedy image.

Bridges

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2014, 08:43:38 AM »
Quote
Instead of attempting to force feed the core into a destination for suburbanites through the implementation of one-trick ponies, enable the district to once again become a viable self sustaining pedestrian-scale neighborhood.  It worked 100 years ago. There's no reason to believe a neighborhood designed to cater to pedestrians, as the highest priority, can't become popular once again, when such a strategy is put in place.

Bingo.  I was talking to some people from Mandarin and Jax Beach the other day.  They said nothing could ever get them to come downtown.  They had no real problem with downtown, just that they enjoyed other places more with their time and money.  There is nothing wrong with that, but we still keep trying to appeal to these people.

Instead we should be focusing on the surrounding neighborhoods, Springfield, San Marco, R/A, Brooklyn.  These are, for the most part, the people that will determine the long term success of Downtown.  If we just worked to make these neighborhoods better and more connected with pedestrian, bike, and alternative forms of transportation, we would see a huge boom for Downtown.
So I said to him: Arthur, Artie come on, why does the salesman have to die? Change the title; The life of a salesman. That's what people want to see.

JayBird

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2014, 08:46:05 AM »
They got 40 years and counting of economic activity from casino gambling?  I'd take that.  How many tax dollars were spent?

Agreed. And actually the locals (not the employees, but everyone else south of Monmouth County) are happy this is occurring because it means they'll return to the summer recreation roots of the shore, with communities from Point Pleasant to Long Beach Island severely overcrowded during the summer and becoming popular as year round living communities.

You may refer to Revel as a one-trick pony (and in my opinion you would be right), but hardly can you view the casino enterprise in the city as the same. It boosted not only the city, but the entire southern half of Jersey for almost 5 decades, what has done that in Jacksonville?
« Last Edit: September 17, 2014, 08:49:08 AM by JayBird »
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thelakelander

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2014, 08:53:46 AM »
They got 40 years and counting of economic activity from casino gambling?  I'd take that.

They did and even today, the boardwalk is a pretty vibrant place. However, walk a few blocks inland (other than Tanger Walk) and it doesn't appear that activity successfully spilled over into the revitalization of the community itself.
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thelakelander

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2014, 08:56:58 AM »
You may refer to Revel as a one-trick pony (and in my opinion you would be right), but hardly can you view the casino enterprise in the city as the same. It boosted not only the city, but the entire southern half of Jersey for almost 5 decades, what has done that in Jacksonville?

Yes. Jacksonville's examples would be the naval installations, paper, railroad, banking, and insurance industries of the 20th century.  All of these industries still play a crucial role in Jax's economic structure being more diverse today than the rest of Florida's major cities.
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JayBird

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2014, 09:04:07 AM »
They got 40 years and counting of economic activity from casino gambling?  I'd take that.

They did and even today, the boardwalk is a pretty vibrant place. However, walk a few blocks inland (other than Tanger Walk) and it doesn't appear that activity successfully spilled over into the revitalization of the community itself.

Actually this is more of a local environment than that it didn't effect the area. Up until the mid-90's, the Jersey Shore was primarily a vacation resort. Town governments would actually only be open Memorial Day to Labor Day in a lot of communities (Jersey has no unincorporated areas, it is all divided into villages, towns, boroughs, cities) and houses were occupied by summer vacationers from NY/NJ/PA and New England as well as those whom retired to Virginia and North Carolina who returned closer to their families for the summer.  Atlantic City was a wasteland before the casinos came in. Actually, with the exception of Cape May, all of South Jersey most likely would've followed had it not been for the casinos. They  added much needed jobs for the forgotten area just out of the reaches of New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington. In fact, the idea of permanent housing at the shore came from those working in Atlantic City casinos. And Atlantic City focuses everything on their casinos and tourists ... meaning the boardwalk and the marina areas. Nothing else. The barrier island that AC is on is also home to Ventnor City, Longport, and Margate. Those are all primarily residential that would've been nothing more than the typical bungalow shacks if it weren't for the casinos.
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JayBird

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2014, 09:08:22 AM »
Oh and shame on you for writing an article about Atlantic City and not including the horrible monstrosity that we Jerseyans love yet hate, Lucy the Elephant. A resident of Margate City and keeping a watchful eye on Atlantic City to her north.  ;D ;D :D
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thelakelander

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2014, 09:17:01 AM »
^^LOL. I missed Lucy!

I'll admit, I'm not familiar with the full history and development of Atlantic City.  However, it was clear that major thoroughfares like Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, within 2-3 block walking distance of the boardwalk, appeared that they've been in continuous decline at least since the 1960s.  Is there a plan for the revitalization of the community as something more than just the boardwalk along the beach?  Tanger Walk and the convention center are good recent additions. Anything in place to build upon that or have goals been torpedoed with the casino industry crash?
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JayBird

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2014, 09:37:35 AM »
There are several plans, it just depends who gets the public sway first. Many locals believe that it will take a lot longer though because they want family oriented places, but with five (soon to be four once Trump Taj Mahal closes mid-November) casinos still on the boardwalk, the beginnings will be hard. However it will be done, Silverstein (developer of the World Trade Center), Trump (yes, after bailing out of AC a few years ago, he now wants back in and tweeted yesterday that he may end up purchasing his two old properties off the bankruptcy auction block) and Extell have already approached the city with plans and ideas, and public meetings are being scheduled to announce those and get public feedback. But, like others have said, nothing happens overnight. And if they can turn Times Square into a weird, disgusting, pedestrian clogged nightmare Disneyland (that locals hate with a passion but tourists flock to and throw their money at it like it is the second coming) than I am sure in 10-15 years AC will be the new hotspot that Seaside was in the 90s.

As for the area around the casinos, yes it is crap. But so is it everywhere they focus on tourism with all their (limited) resources. Remember the biggest (arguably only) taxpayers to AC were the casinos. Everything was geared at getting people into those casinos, not walking the boulevard. They wanted you to shop and eat inside their places, go out onto the Boardwalk to view ocean vistas and bikinis and come back in and continue spending money. Sands Casino actually would not let you out onto the street. They had a moving sidewalk that went from the boardwalk one block into their property and when you left, same way. For the past 40 years, they've actively tried to NOT develop a street scale economy. That will most likely change this time around.

Is there a plan for the revitalization of the community as something more than just the boardwalk along the beach? 

The boardwalk IS Atlantic City. Heck the boardwalk IS the Jersey Shore. But no, there are three areas of the entire city: Boardwalk, Marina, Convention Center. AC is very small. Under 20 sq mi with most of that being marsh and tidal islands. You can walk anywhere in the developed city in under 20 minutes.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2014, 09:40:09 AM by JayBird »
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PeeJayEss

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2014, 10:01:10 AM »
They got 40 years and counting of economic activity from casino gambling?  I'd take that.

They did and even today, the boardwalk is a pretty vibrant place. However, walk a few blocks inland (other than Tanger Walk) and it doesn't appear that activity successfully spilled over into the revitalization of the community itself.

I think this is an important point, but not a recent occurrence. The casino concept, proposed with the idea of revitalizing the area and closing the budget, was either ill-conceived from the beginning or pitched as such simply for marketing purposes in order to achieve the goal of legalized gambling. The former (revitalization) never really happened. The boardwalk area and, to a lesser extent, the marina area, were the only places that were every really nice in AC after the 60s. The rest of AC was plagued by poverty and crime over the entire history of the casinos. The latter (tax revenue) certainly worked, and worked well. The infrastructure in the "important" parts of AC is top-notch.

However, and this should be obvious, casino development is a use that does not really complement anything else. A casino is designed to have everything you need inside so that you never need to walk outside. On the street side in particular, but even on the boardwalk side for most of the casinos, there is not street/board-level activation. A couple have restaurants with outside seating, but otherwise it is just entrances to casinos/hotels. Most of the storefronts (arcade, pizza, fries, souvenir crap, etc) on the boardwalk are not connected to casinos, nor is the pier. The one pier that is casino-owned is an enclosed mall. The boardwalk is crowded in the summer because it (and the stores, pier, etc on it) is an attraction in its own right. Boardwalk traffic is not really casino-related, though the people may be there because of the casinos.

Last, it is important to remember, and I think an important distinguishing characteristic between AC and LV, that AC is a very seasonal town. No one is on the beach, the other major "trick" of the AC pony, for 8 months out of the year. The boardwalk is a ghost town for at least 3 months out of the year.

AC would probably be a much more sustainable town if they were a straight resort town like most of the NJ coastline, but I don't think casinos are going anywhere. The Borgata is the best performing casino in the country (yes, the country). Revel was ill-conceived from the beginning (rather, when they decided to continue after 2008), and anything that has been touched by Trump has basically existed to go through bankruptcy. Showboat had been pretty decrepit until the early 2000s, but then they sank a whole lot of money into it right before the downturn which both helped them and put them in a precarious situation. The casino was still profitable, but Caesars (parent company) shut it down to reduce its exposure in the market. Of the other two that closed, the Trump Plaza was outdated, and the Atlantic Club was a dumpster fire.

So what's left:
Taj Mahal - I think the closure of the Plaza will help this one stay open. Its a pretty cool casino in good condition, though it is kind of on a island now at the north end of the boardwalk.
Borgata - the other new one before Revel. Easily the class of the town, and it is doing gangbusters.
Golden Nugget - previously the Trump Marina, I'm not sure this one can last. It has seen better days and the other two marina casinos are much nicer. However, it is the only casino owned by that group in AC, so they might be better able to keep it open than Caesar's is able to keep their 3.
Tropicana - another with just one in AC, planning an expansion. In pretty good condition and doing good business
Harrah's - very nice still and recently expanded. The Pool is ridiculously popular. I don't see this one going anywhere
Caesar's - Expanded like crazy over the past decade, and is the flagship of the brand, probably the most popular on the boardwalk
Bally's - the third Caesar's property. Its HUGE. If Caesar's decides they need to close another, I think this will be the one.
Resorts - the original, expanded in 2004, rebranded recently, still holding it together, only casino in town for the company.

Revel entered a market that was already oversaturated, most of the casinos have gone through bankruptcy proceedings in the past, and a bunch of them have really over-leveraged themselves over the past decade. That said, they're still making money. The AC Club will probably turn into a hotel, but the rest will probably be bought for very cheap and reopened Revel and I think Showboat for sure. The Plaza maybe as well. Then there will STILL be way too many casinos in AC!

Also, they really need to bring back the actual pony at Steel Pier.

I also know that hurricane Sandy hit AC pretty hard and actually took out parts of the boardwalk.  I was actually there for a bachelor party when the hurricane hit.  We had to cut the trip a little short.

AC really only had minimal flooding from Sandy, and that was mostly away from the casinos. There also wasn't much damage to the boardwalk. There was a report about boardwalk damage that took pictures of previously-damaged sections, so that might be where you are getting that. LBI is really the southernmost place where you started to see significant damage occurring, below that is was mostly flooding (without dune breaching).

PeeJayEss

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2014, 10:22:19 AM »
Actually this is more of a local environment than that it didn't effect the area. Up until the mid-90's, the Jersey Shore was primarily a vacation resort.

this was and still is true for the most part. Very few have year-round population even fractionally close to their summer population.

Town governments would actually only be open Memorial Day to Labor Day in a lot of communities

That's not true.

Actually, with the exception of Cape May, all of South Jersey most likely would've followed had it not been for the casinos. They  added much needed jobs for the forgotten area just out of the reaches of New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington. In fact, the idea of permanent housing at the shore came from those working in Atlantic City casinos. And Atlantic City focuses everything on their casinos and tourists ... meaning the boardwalk and the marina areas. Nothing else. The barrier island that AC is on is also home to Ventnor City, Longport, and Margate. Those are all primarily residential that would've been nothing more than the typical bungalow shacks if it weren't for the casinos.

Most of this is untrue.

Ventnor and Margate both have sizeable year-round residents, some of which work in hotels (though most working in hotels cannot afford houses in either). The population in both increases by multiple times in the summer. Longport is mostly a resort town, with a very small year round population. Every other town from LBI south is a resort town, even Cape May. I believe that is generally true to the north as well, though I know less about the north. Seaside, for example, is very much a resort town. Atlantic City itself is really the only city with any real year-round population (40,000). Those casino benefits don't travel very far. They have nothing to do with the popularity of the other resort towns, and even less to do with the health of South Jersey as a whole. Most of these places are primarily seasonal residential with some hotels and motels mixed in, but they certainly wouldn't be cozy hamlets with shacks if not for AC.

JayBird

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2014, 10:25:02 AM »
Yea, AC faired pretty well from Sandy. Think the one pier got tore up but nothing major, they were repaired completely by spring (whereas Seaside to Pt Pleasant is still repairing/raising houses/dune building). They received pretty much a direct hit of the storm, which was actually good. Living in Florida, you all know the worst part is the northeast quadrant of the storm. i.e. a direct hit to Jax Beach would be much better than a direct hit on St Augustine for Jacksonville.

However, and this should be obvious, casino development is a use that does not really complement anything else. A casino is designed to have everything you need inside so that you never need to walk outside. On the street side in particular, but even on the boardwalk side for most of the casinos, there is not street/board-level activation. A couple have restaurants with outside seating, but otherwise it is just entrances to casinos/hotels. Most of the storefronts (arcade, pizza, fries, souvenir crap, etc) on the boardwalk are not connected to casinos, nor is the pier. The one pier that is casino-owned is an enclosed mall. The boardwalk is crowded in the summer because it (and the stores, pier, etc on it) is an attraction in its own right. Boardwalk traffic is not really casino-related, though the people may be there because of the casinos.

Hit the nail on the head.

But remember, this is not Jacksonville. You cannot accurately look at the economic effects by solely basing it on the immediate area. This is a economy driver for Atlantic, Cape May, western Burlington and southern Ocean counties. It did its job, it served its purpose, and now it is growing up. The wreckless teenager is becoming an adult.

So what's left:
Taj Mahal - I think the closure of the Plaza will help this one stay open. Its a pretty cool casino in good condition, though it is kind of on a island now at the north end of the boardwalk.
Borgata - the other new one before Revel. Easily the class of the town, and it is doing gangbusters.
Golden Nugget - previously the Trump Marina, I'm not sure this one can last. It has seen better days and the other two marina casinos are much nicer. However, it is the only casino owned by that group in AC, so they might be better able to keep it open than Caesar's is able to keep their 3.
Tropicana - another with just one in AC, planning an expansion. In pretty good condition and doing good business
Harrah's - very nice still and recently expanded. The Pool is ridiculously popular. I don't see this one going anywhere
Caesar's - Expanded like crazy over the past decade, and is the flagship of the brand, probably the most popular on the boardwalk
Bally's - the third Caesar's property. Its HUGE. If Caesar's decides they need to close another, I think this will be the one.
Resorts - the original, expanded in 2004, rebranded recently, still holding it together, only casino in town for the company.

The Taj is closing, its in bankruptcy and the developers want it for cheap. Locking doors mid-November, unless of course the union says "oh no, we will continue to work without raises this year" which has about 1% chance of happening (but still a chance!). The fund that was running the Taj and the Plaza were idiots, they treated the casino like their personal bank vault. Many cartoons in the Asbury Park Press over the past few years comparing their management with the Oceans11 movies.

The Golden Nugget, I am amazed this is still open. It is atrocious, but so are the regular clientele so I guess it found its niche.

As for the rest, I think they'll stay and most likely do better. This is kind of in tune with how in 2009 we realized that we didn't need a Circuit City, Best Buy and PC Richards on three corners of the same intersection.

Also, they really need to bring back the actual pony at Steel Pier.

LoL ... the entire metro area is kind of skittish about doing anything with ponies right now. Animal rights and free enterprise are waging an all out war right now!
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JayBird

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Re: Atlantic City: When The One Trick Pony Fails
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2014, 10:35:03 AM »
Actually this is more of a local environment than that it didn't effect the area. Up until the mid-90's, the Jersey Shore was primarily a vacation resort.

this was and still is true for the most part. Very few have year-round population even fractionally close to their summer population.

Town governments would actually only be open Memorial Day to Labor Day in a lot of communities

That's not true.


Lavallette
Ortley Beach
Bay Head
Mantoloking
Little Egg
Sea Isle
Avalon
Brigatine

These ones (there are more but I cannot remember) did not have full time government until a state municipal code changed in 1993/94(?). The mayor and city council would meet in January, April-Oct and December. Town halls remained closed and locked from Oct 1 - April 30, using schools for any emergency meetings they needed.

I grew up spending every summer in Bay Head (still do at our family house that was built before Bay Head really became a resort village in 1890s. My uncle was Mayor of Mantoloking and cousin was county commissioner of Ocean County.

I know my facts.


Actually, with the exception of Cape May, all of South Jersey most likely would've followed had it not been for the casinos. They  added much needed jobs for the forgotten area just out of the reaches of New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington. In fact, the idea of permanent housing at the shore came from those working in Atlantic City casinos. And Atlantic City focuses everything on their casinos and tourists ... meaning the boardwalk and the marina areas. Nothing else. The barrier island that AC is on is also home to Ventnor City, Longport, and Margate. Those are all primarily residential that would've been nothing more than the typical bungalow shacks if it weren't for the casinos.

Most of this is untrue.

Ventnor and Margate both have sizeable year-round residents, some of which work in hotels (though most working in hotels cannot afford houses in either). The population in both increases by multiple times in the summer. Longport is mostly a resort town, with a very small year round population. Every other town from LBI south is a resort town, even Cape May. I believe that is generally true to the north as well, though I know less about the north. Seaside, for example, is very much a resort town. Atlantic City itself is really the only city with any real year-round population (40,000). Those casino benefits don't travel very far. They have nothing to do with the popularity of the other resort towns, and even less to do with the health of South Jersey as a whole. Most of these places are primarily seasonal residential with some hotels and motels mixed in, but they certainly wouldn't be cozy hamlets with shacks if not for AC.

As I said, it USED to be. Longport is year round now, as is ALL of the shore. Though still majority rentals, no town is a ghost town during the winter like it was just 10/15 years ago. If anything, the Sandy rebuilds have made this more so as landlords and house owners  have updated the residences.

And to say every town south of AC is seasonal, Cape May/Wildwood/Stone Harbor/Ocean City have all added to their infrastucture in terms of schools and public services because of the year round population.

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