By David Cruz
On the final day of 2013 only the hearty were walking the boards in Atlantic City. This has been a year of cold reality for New Jersey’s gaming industry and the city that surrounds it with revenues down month after month – a total of six percent for the year, through November. But at Caesars, they’re pushing ahead, promoting their New Year’s Eve party, ready to welcome 2014 – and perhaps, forget all about the unlucky ‘13.
“I am optimistic, I think what we need to do in Atlantic City – and I believe we have the foundation to do so – is to reinvent ourselves as a regional resort destination. We have to differentiate ourselves from the ultra competitive environment that we are in,” said Kevin Ortzman, Vice President and general manager at Caesars Atlantic City.
2014 marks year five of Gov.Chris Christie’s five-year timetable for Atlantic City to turn it around before he acquiesces to calls for at least studying an expansion of gaming to other parts of the state, like the Meadowlands. The city – through the Atlantic City Alliance – expects to play up the rest of the city’s assets in 2014.
“You know as we look ahead to 2014, we’re gonna continue to talk about everything there is to do in Atlantic City with an emphasis on the fact that we’re an island destination, with beautiful oceanfront, beautiful beaches and the best boardwalk in the world, so all of that, the dining and entertainment, that is the package that Atlantic City represents,” said Atlantic City Alliance President Liza Cartmell.
But no one seems more bullish on the possibility of Atlantic City’s life beyond the gaming industry than its new, Republican mayor, Don Guardian, whose jangly energy could just be what this hardscrabble city by the sea needs.
“Absolutely, you’ve got to want to live in Atlantic City, you’ve got to love living in Atlantic City, and so we’ve got to make sure that our residents fell good about it and that’s gotta be the quality of the city they’re living in, the cleanliness of the streets, the quality of the playgrounds,” said Guardian.
“For that 30 years or so of gaming we didn’t have to think; we didn’t have to get real smart; we didn’t have to market the place. We had gaming; nobody else did. Now, that’s not our advantage anymore,” he said.
Experts predict that the industry could consolidate further in 2014, but what’s left, maybe ten or fewer casinos, will be healthy and a complimentary piece of a vibrant resort city, where you can eat, swim and – if you’re feeling lucky – gamble.
While the numbers show that 2013 is going out with a whimper, there’s enough hope here to suggest that 2014 will be the year of the boom in Atlantic City.