Driving into Atlantic City on a bustling sunny Saturday afternoon, the air heavy with the promise of short dresses and tall drinks, there is an invisible cloud that hangs above. Although I know it lingers behind sad “cash for gold” signs, dark back alleys, and mahogany boardrooms with hopeful sellers, I don’t immediately see if beneath the flashing lights and well-dressed people shuffling from their cars and into the casinos; the indoor playgrounds.
I forget the uncertain future of the town that I often read about in local newspapers and instead, I feel an immediate jack in optimism as I walk through the double doors. Even at the tender time of 7:00 pm, still perfectly light in the summer, girls are hiked up in their high heels and boys are suited up, passing drinks. No one is stressed, overwhelmed or downtrodden and instead, they relish in the simple delight of being away, yet not too far away, in a place that is perpetually on vacation.
Without ever having to step into an airport, the entirety of the City is on holiday. All they had to do was fill up a backpack, stop at the liquor store, and get on the parkway. No matter how often or how little that we go, Atlantic City is our very own resort; in our very own backyards.
However, behind closed doors, the future is much uncertain. Within seven months, three casinos have turned off their last fluorescent light. Throughout the past eight years, profits have plunged by $2.34 billion dollars, having started 2006 making $5.2 billion, cutting revenue almost in half.
This is a sad story for the city that once ran the show against prohibition, where rules were negotiable and freedom was rampant during the 1920s in one Jersey locale. Gamblers and drinkers waved their hand to the conservative ruling and instead, threw around their glamour and glitz alongside their whiskey drinks and dancing women. Without the cloud of prohibition to ruin its weekends, Atlantic City quickly became “The World’sPlayground.”
However, as all tales, the golden days of the city came to an end around World War II and it quickly became overrun by poverty, crime, unemployment and corruption. Today, Atlantic City is no longer the hotspot of gambling that it once was, falling to competition from Pennsylvania and online casinos in New York and Maryland.
Unfortunately, at the time when this all is happening, Atlantic City doesn’t have much other industry to sustain it. It is still seen as solely a hub of gambling but without gamblers flocking to it as their number one, it is quickly dropping revenue, casinos and jobs.
As bleak as this all sounds for the city, it’s actually not all bad. This is occurring in part simply because there are too many casinos. Unfortunately, these are all sad effects of the realistic ending that the market needs to correct itself and adjust to the true number of gamblers that are flocking to betting centers. Plus, as the gambling industry is continuing to change, Atlantic City is seeing that it needs some other attractions going around to keep families headed to the Shore spot, an effort they are pursuing incessantly.
Even if one day, Atlantic City becomes the new Point Pleasant and Jerseyans get on the Atlantic City Expressway just to hang out on the boardwalk with their toddlers, to me, it’ll always be the charmingly seedy town where I booked ghetto motels to save cash but ended up in suites at the Borgata. It’s where I danced in the House of the Blues, snuck into the Pool After Dark, and struggled home on that three-hour drive back north. I’m glad for industry, economic prosperity and employment coming to Atlantic City, but I’m glad to always have fond memories of blurry nights out, constantly full glasses and the opportunity to be on vacation at only a drive away.