The new casino, the Revel, is scheduled to open early this year, May 15 to be exact although it could be fast-tracked to an earlier date. All the hopes are on the new $2.4 billion giant. But the big question is whether the Revel will draw customers away from as far as Pennsylvania and New York or will simply siphon business from its neighbors on the Boardwalk.
The governor is upbeat. This is one of his pet projects. But realism is not one of the fortes of this administration. The objective conditions under which Atlantic City will operate in 2012 will be the same as in 2011 – except for the Revel. Is the one new casino sufficient to have a permanent and upward effect on the declining fortunes of AC? I hope so but I can’t help doubting it.
The objective conditions that have not changed are the New Jersey economy (dismal), the out-of-state competition (fierce), and Atlantic City itself. One element has worsened: The main roads to access Atlantic City are toll roads and the cost of travelling through them has just been increased. It is not much but it could also be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some.
Atlantic City must become an attractive destination, despite the casinos, and it must be rethought in a manner that attracts the right clientele. I am all for family and wholesome settings but young couples with little children do not fit the prototype of gamblers.
The tolls must be removed from the roads, Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. The local airport may need expansion. The beach must be put to work (I have talked about that in other articles and in the Atlantic City page). Perhaps the cost of liquor licenses must be lowered to a minimum. Relax smoking rules. Security must be reassuring. AC must do everything that Vegas does and more.
But the governor is in a bind: He aspires to enter the national scene – in fact he may be just using New Jersey as a springboard – and he would not risk breaking with the ultra conservatives in the GOP. Atlantic City is a sin city; it can not prosper unless it becomes bold, forward, unabashed.