By Lauren Wanko
Miss America is back in Atlantic City, along with 53 contestants vying for the crown. And while one competitor will win the coveted title Sunday night, Atlantic City officials says it’s a win for the entire town. They predict Miss America will generate $40 million for the city.
“Miss America means an immediate economic impact,” Atlantic City Alliance Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Guaracino said. “The immediate economic impact is the millions of dollars which are spent on the local unions and labors and local vendors, the hotel staff, the restaurant staff. The economic impact of all of the media who are here, a national broadcast, three hours on national TV, 160 journalists who are credentialed telling the new Atlantic City story.”
This is the first year the Miss America is back in town since the competition moved to Las Vegas in 2006.
“Well it’s coming home. Coming back to Atlantic City is definitely coming home. And from time Gov. Christie called us and said, ‘What do we have to do to get you back?’ it took us only eight weeks to negotiate the deal. My deal was running out in Las Vegas. I knew I wanted to try to come back,” Miss America Organization Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell.
The Atlantic City Alliance says the Miss America competition is part of a strategy to bring more tourists to Atlantic City. And thousands of people are descending upon the city for the iconic event. Thirteen thousand spectators will crowd Boardwalk Hall Sunday night. Another 200,000 people are expected for the parade.
“We have 20,000 hotel rooms that all need to be filled because when they’re filled post Labor Day in particular, that gives an economic vibrancy to Atlantic City, a tax revenue back to the state that we all desperately need,” Guaracino said.
Casino revenue continues to decline in the seaside community. In August, revenue fell by nearly 5 percent. The Atlantic City Alliance says they’re seeing a shift in consumer spending. Sales are up for third party vendors like night clubs, dining and restaurants. Officials are trying to re-brand Atlantic City with a focus on non-gaming activities and the Miss America competition fits that bill.
“Put it this way, no matter how successful all of us would be in bringing, repositioning Atlantic City for the future, if Miss America didn’t come back, people would say, ‘You did a great job but you need to get back that Miss America.’ And what Miss America did for Atlantic City was a civic pride campaign. Miss America is in everyone’s blood here,” Guaracino said.
“I’m so happy the Miss America pageant is back in Atlantic City. I’m gonna love it,” said Williamstown resident Nancy Dale.
There’s no doubt local officials are loving the crown too. It may generate millions for this town, but some insist the diamonds are priceless.