As the Showboat becomes the latest to close its doors Atlantic City faces a future with few casinos and more unemployed.
To say the coastal casino congregation called Atlantic City is having a bad year would be an understatement to rival “Politicians aren’t always completely honest” and “icloud image hosting services might not be as secure as you think”. The fact is Atlantic City is facing a concentrated period of economic crisis as the gambling industry in the region readjusts to new operating contexts and increased competition. The once singular oasis of gaming is now surrounded by competitors and that has had a massive effect.
The Atlantic Club was first to go in January and whilst the casino gambling news addicts wrung their hands at this lamentable closure it was a loss the city could absorb in of itself. There would be other uses for the building, the staff would find work elsewhere, it was a small bump in the road for a city still making a profit. Unfortunately those profits were down, and had been sinking for several years, making investors look at alternative homes for their money that might garner them higher returns.
Showboat Latest Casino Closure
• Atlantic City faces hard times
• Last hand of blackjack tips the balance
• Four of twelve casinos closing this year
In rapid succession, almost as if the floodgates had been opened by the Atlantic Club’s retreat from the casino coal-face, three more of Atlantic City’s centers of employment and entertainment announced they were looking for buyers. This is standard procedure. They say they’re looking for buyers, completely fail find anyone willing to buy a business the sellers themselves no longer consider a good enough return, and then close the place, all the whilst lamenting that no one wanted to take it on.
This rather cynical song and dance has been repeated with the Showboat, the Revel and the Trump Plaza, but in the end, Atlantic City is losing four of twelve casinos in less than a year leaving hulking great empty edifices on the skyline, a large hole in city tax revenues, and 8,000 extra unemployed just as summer ends and the city stumbles towards the quieter autumn and winter seasons. Barring a tsunami things couldn’t get much worse for the New Jersey gambling mecca.
Last Hand Of Blackjack At The Showboat
The most recent of these to shut up shop was the Showboat. Since its opening 1987 the facility underwent quite a few changes. The increase in area, the imposition of a theme, the new tower added and of course, the addition of the House of Blues all notable moments in this lengthy process. It began with but 516 rooms and ended up with 1,331, many in the $90 million hotel tower it added in 2003, and remodeled in 2007. However the Mardi Gras themed casino, some 127,978 square feet of gaming space, despite being profitable, wasn’t profitable enough.
The casino closed its doors on the 31st of August 2014 with just a single table playing out what will almost certainly be a hand of cards that blackjack history will record in detail. The small crowd that had gathered around heard the pit boss call “Last hand” and the dealer pass out cards as bets were made. The dealer’s first card was the Jack of hearts, but the second was just the four of spades. With the house on fourteen spirits were quite high as the next card was turned and, perhaps aptly, the dealer bust with the jack of spades.
The winners of that final hand then slowly drifted away as the Caesar’s Entertainment owned casino then shut its doors once and for all. Staff and regular players shared memories with each other briefly, wished each other well and then it was over. The Showboat, despite still making money, had closed. The Revel has already stopped operating, the Trump Plaza will do so too on the 16th of September, and the city is left to pick up the pieces trying to find a way forward in the aftermath of this massive, and relatively sudden, economic adjustment.
The UNITE HERE Local 54CQ has said it will be launching a resource center for those newly unemployed, providing help in signing up for unemployment insurance benefits and other forms of assistance. They’ll have 100 staff on hand at the Atlantic City Convention Center and expect 5,000 people in the first three days. Ben Begleiter, spokesman for the union, says they’ll welcome members and nonmembers alike, but is realistic at the patience people will need to queue up to see their representatives.
Competition From Without And Within
Atlantic City’s woes are only set to get worse. The market for gambling in the region has plateaued and the increase in competition meant that demand was always going to make retaining a full dozen casinos unlikely in the long term and the eight remaining casinos can’t be guaranteed a future either. The gleaming spires of Macau have lured away many of the big traveling gamblers, Las Vegas has been undergoing a rebirth of growth (Trump is moving there from Atlantic City which says much, n’est pas?) and online gambling is on the march.
But it isn’t these far away dream destinations, nor the allure of the electronic cyberverse, that has hammered shut the doors of a quarter of Atlantic City’s casinos. They’ve not helped, of course, but the real blame, if that’s what it should be termed, has to lie on the surrounding states that have, in times of economic hardship, sought to benefit from gambling and the tax revenues that it can bring in. Pennsylvania and Maryland particularly have done well from permitting casinos with Atlantic City losing out to them.
The regional rather than international footprint of the city meant that with fewer people having to travel to Atlantic City to enjoy practicing their favorite card counting system or roulette theory, profits fell, and they’ll probably fall more should plans for a new area of casinos in the northern part of New Jersey go ahead. Of course the authorities are dismayed by this possible competition actually inside their own state, given how much damage competition from outside the state has already done, but the pull of profits are unlikely to stay the hands behind this development near New York.
In the end that’s the problem Atlantic City faces; The reality of more casinos scattered around the eastern side of the US pulling away punters each weekend that would more traditionally have splurged money on a less frequent but more special trip to the Broadwalk. The Showboat’s last hand of blackjack might have been lamentable but it wasn’t entirely unexpected as Atlantic City now moves into small role in a far busier marketplace. It remains to be seen if it will survive at its new bijou size or shrink even more in the next few years.