Today: 19.07.2018
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Gambling will be the death of Atlantic City.

Here come just what the gambling millions haven’t prayed for: two mammoth new Atlantic City casinos opening on June 28. Beyond offering snake eyes to Big Apple players, the simultaneous launches raise the question: Can Atlantic City, a slum with high crime and high unemployment — plus a beach and boardwalk grafted on — be...
Time: 10:32     Date: 23.06.2018
US Living News: Gambling will be the death of Atlantic City. NY Post 24 - US News

Can Atlantic City, a slum with high crime and high unemployment — plus a beach and boardwalk grafted on — be saved from irrelevance and further decay? Don’t bet on it unless it learns the lesson of Las Vegas — that relying on gambling is a quick trip to going broke.

At first glance, the boardwalk suggests a happy upmarket playground scented by roasting peanuts and salt air. In addition to brightly lit casinos, it boasts the ocean beach, the Steel Pier with its Ferris wheel and outdoor cafes.

But even on sunny days, it offers very little of the colorful, polyglot life of the Coney Island Boardwalk — some times, there’s not much life at all. Visitors, most of them white, stroll between casinos with the disinterested air of shopping mall-goers.

The massive hotels loom over the troubled, low-rise town like fortresses of a conquering planet. Windows on the north-facing sides of both new properties afford views of abandoned houses and empty lots on Pacific Avenue, where 22 women and two men were busted on May 30 for their roles in a prostitution ring.

The new Hard Rock and Ocean casinos are spiffier and hipper than their predecessors. But ghosts of failure linger behind every slot machine.

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is a $500 million reboot of the Trump Taj Mahal, which suffered through 17 years of fiscal and managerial chaos until it went belly-up in 2016. Its jolly history included three bankruptcies, numerous shootings and a money-laundering settlement with the US government.

The Hyatt-branded Ocean Resort Casino, after $175 million in renovations, rests on the bones of instant-flop Revel, which cost $2.4 billion to open and closed in 2014 after just two years. The Revel is best remembered for the night when video cams captured Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée in the head.

What’s more, not even the best casino hotels can rely on gaming as their main revenue stream anymore. “Younger people . . . aren’t looking to make gambling their primary motive of going to a particular destination or resort,” Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at New Jersey’s Stockton University, recently told The Washington Post.

For Atlantic City to thrive anew, it needs more Las Vegas-like resorts where Disney World-style family entertainment and activities take priority over gambling. The way to create them might be to raze two shuttered casinos and start all over from the ground up: Trump Plaza and the Atlantic Club. Asbestos-ridden Trump Plaza was to be demolished this spring by its owner, Carl Icahn, but the job has been postponed until the fall, and Icahn’s plans for the site are unknown. There’s no rescuer in sight for the Atlantic Club, which is literally falling apart and in no condition to be sold.

Atlantic City needs more Borgatas

While Las Vegas casinos take in two-thirds of their dough from non-gambling attractions such as restaurants, concert venues, spas and even amusement rides, Atlantic City reverses the formula. Despite the fresh dough poured into them, both revived Atlantic City venues structurally resemble Vegas resorts in the pre-Steve Wynn era — giant gambling boxes with guest rooms and mediocre “restaurants.”

The Ocean’s “fine dining” roster is topped by “Iron Chef” Jose Garces’ Amada eatery, whose Manhattan outpost recently closed due to poor business, and Mark Forgione’s American Cut, a Midtown steakhouse that stopped serving lunch after a lack of demand. (At least it boasts a celebrity connection: Superstar actor Mark Wahlberg is an investor in Ocean and plans to launch his family’s Wahlburgers restaurants there as well as a lounge called Entourage, named for the HBO series.) The Hard Rock’s only “name” eateries include a branch of Il Mulino and a giant Hard Rock Cafe burger joint. Worse, the place is burdened with strip club Scores, a decidedly family-unfriendly venue that the Hard Rock’s owners inherited from the Taj Mahal and unsuccessfully tried to drop.

The exception to this antiquated approach is the Borgata, which opened in 2003 not on the boardwalk but at nearby Renaissance Point in the Marina District. Conceived as a rival to Las Vegas, it boasts two thriving music venues, a 54,000 square-foot spa, high-end boutiques, restaurants run by Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck, and a branch of Manhattan’s Old Homestead Steakhouse. Not surprisingly, the Borgata is Atlantic City’s most successful property, making a record $290 million profit in 2017.

Atlantic City needs more Borgatas. Five of 12 casinos closed between 2012 and 2014 and despite a brief upswing in business, casino profits for the first three months of 2018 fell 12 percent over the same period last year, according to the state’s Casino Gaming Commission. Legalized sports betting throughout New Jersey, just approved, might benefit casinos once they install the wagering venues known as sports books. But, so far, only the Borgata’s launched one.

Yes, the two new casinos will turn the lights back on in dark empty properties. But Atlantic City must start thinking outside the “gaming” box if it’s ever going to hit the jackpot again.

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