What Happened To Atlantic City?

by Lauren Barbato

Before there was the Las Vegas Strip, there was Atlantic City. The beachside city was a popular vacation destination for New Jersey residents and out-of-state travelers alike since its boardwalk opened in 1870. When New Jersey legalized gambling in the 1970s, the oceanside resort was the premier spot for casino gambling and adult nightlife. But in 2014, the city's boardwalk property continues to dwindle, with the Trump Plaza casino leaving Atlantic City in September. It's the latest crash for the once-prosperous city that's struggling to reinvent itself.

The owners of the Trump Plaza, which opened in Atlantic City in 1984, told The Associated Press that the hotel and casino will close its doors on Sept. 16. However, the owners are reportedly looking at alternate options for the boardwalk property, including hiring a search firm to find a buyer.

The mid-September closure of the Trump Plaza comes on the heels of a crippled casino market that has already affected a number of other establishments on the boardwalk. According to The AP, the closure of the Trump Plaza means Atlantic City will lose a third of its casinos in just nine months, as well as a quarter of its workforce.

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So far in 2014, the floundering city has lost The Atlantic Club, which closed in January. The Showboat, a Mardi Gras-themed hotel and casino operating on the boardwalk since 1987, is scheduled to close Aug. 31.

One of Atlantic City's latest ventures, the glossy, luxury resort casino Revel, filed for bankruptcy this week for the second time in 15 months. The hotel and casino has been open for barely two years, and first filed for bankruptcy just 10 months into its operation. The Wall Street Journal reported that Revel, which was aimed at young and affluent patrons, will have to close in August if it can't find a buyer.

The news of Revel's latest tanking had many state officials tasked with revitalizing the gambling city worried. "This was supposed to be a new paradigm, a new kind of place," John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and a Chris Christie-appointee, told The WSJ. "Some very smart people who made investment decisions believed that it could succeed."

There are currently 11 casinos left in Atlantic City. By the end of September, the city may be down to just eight casinos. Trump Plaza and Revel have long been at the bottom of the Atlantic City's casino-performance ranking.

The poor performance of Revel, as well as the quick unraveling of Atlantic City's marketplace, is an embarrassment for Gov. Chris Christie, who funneled millions of state funds into the luxe casino. The governor had big plans to "turn around" Atlantic City when he took office in 2009. Five years later, it looks like Atlantic City has turned the wrong way.

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