Atlantic City was once New Jersey’s largest tourist attraction. It boasted a beautiful boardwalk and beaches, and it was the first city to provide gambling outside of Nevada.
But the city has seen hard times these past few years; four of the city’s 12 casinos closed between 2013 and 2015, and things don’t appear to be improving. According to Newsweek, Atlantic City’s unemployment rate is 13.8% — the 10th-highest in the nation — and its mortgage foreclosure rate is America’s highest.
Even Donald Trump, who once owned and operated three casinos there, has declared the once-bustling gambling city “a disaster”.
The city has re-branded multiple times in the hopes of attracting more tourists, and Revel, a new multi-billion dollar resort, was built (and then subsequently went bankrupt), but nothing has brought Atlantic City back onto its feet. The Borgata, which is opening a new $ 14 million nightclub experience this year, may be the only bright spot in the city’s future.
Now the streets and boardwalk of Atlantic City look more like a ghost town than a tourist hub.
Atlantic City’s true heyday was in the early 1960s, when traveling cross-country was not economical for most families.
Even before gambling was legal in the area, the city served as the East Coast’s go-to beach destination. Now, even on a 90-degree day the beaches can be almost completely empty.
Opening its doors in the summer of 1978, the Resorts International Casino was the first casino to open in Atlantic City. It was the first time gambling was legal outside of Nevada, and it was a bold attempt to bring more tourists to the area.
Major casino operators including Caesars, Bally’s, and Harrah’s flocked to Atlantic City once gambling was legal.
Even Donald Trump had high hopes for the city. He got an Atlantic City casino license in 1982 and promptly opened three casinos, including the Taj Mahal.
In 1991, just a year after opening, it filed for bankruptcy — Trump had financed it with $ 900 million in junk bonds.
In the mid ’90s, Atlantic City’s casino industry employed almost 50,000 people.
By 2011, employment within the casinos was down to about 33,000.
In May 2012, Revel, a 57-story, $ 2.2 billion dollar resort and casino, opened after a nearly six-year struggle marked by construction halts, union protests, and government interference. The casino had to file for bankruptcy two times within the first two years of opening — and it officially closed in September 2014.
The non-profit marketing organization Atlantic City Alliance has been in charge of branding Atlantic City since 2011.
In 2012 the Alliance announced a new slogan for Atlantic City: “Do AC.”
It hasn’t helped turn the city’s economy around — between 2013 and 2015, four casinos had to shut down: Revel AC, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, and Showboat Atlantic City.
These closings cost the city more than 8,000 jobs.
In a 2013 New Yorker interview, Atlantic City’s mayor Don Guardian said, “What Atlantic City does best is reinvent itself.”