For me, there are few things greater than a hot dog and a cold beer walking down an oceanfront boardwalk on a sunny New Jersey summer day.
The taste of funnel cakes eaten on the edge of a pier. Overlooking the ocean with the sound of riders on a rickety wooden roller coaster screaming in the background. The smell of freshly fried french fries doused in salt, vinegar, and ketchup. The squawk of hungry seagulls filling the surrounding sky as you scarf them down.
I even get a good laugh reading the punny slogans displayed at the many t-shirt shops that dominate oceanfront real estate in the Garden State. Their commitment to staying topical is admirable.
It’s kitsch. It’s pure Americana. And each and every one of these things represents the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Atlantic City many of us have come to love.
Another Atlantic City reinvention
It’s the kind of place that has reinvented itself time and again. But it still remains true to its roots.
From a once burgeoning New Jersey seaside resort town to the speakeasies of the Prohibition era. The legal NJ casino construction boom to the epitome of 1980s excess. From under the thumb of a man who would be king to a mega casino resort capital struggling to reinvent itself as a family vacation destination.
No matter what it is, what it was, or what it was hoping to be, the Atlantic City we all love has always survived.
Of course, there have been times when an increase in crime and poverty overshadowed the city’s sunnier side. Nostalgia can’t disguise the fact a right turn down the wrong alley has always been a grave mistake on the seedy side of this town.
But with every reinvention comes new hope. Hope that the worst of Atlantic City can be kept in check. Hope that the latest economic development plan will work and a brighter future lay ahead.
There’s always hope for NJ casinos
These days, that hope is stronger than ever, and for good reason.
While it took years to build and stumbled out of the gate the first time, Atlantic City’s mega-resort Revel is on the verge of a comeback. It’s now called TEN. Even though the Floridian developer who bought it for a fraction of the billions it took to build is having a little trouble jumping through the regulatory hoops required to reopen, he’s promising a reopening soon.
Glenn Straub says he’s now leased out gaming operations to a developer who might have an easier time getting a gaming license. In the meantime, he’s planning to reopen the hotel side of the operation on June 15, 2017.
Another property just down the Boardwalk that’s had financial issues of its own is getting a full makeover as well.
When the $1 billion Trump Taj Mahal opened in 1990, it was the largest casino in the world. Like Revel, it filed for bankruptcy after less than a year in operation. Even though it was the top-grossing casino in Atlantic City for the decade before the opening of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in 2003, financial issues have always plagued the property.
Of course, the Taj shut down in October 2016.
But earlier this year, Hard Rock International announced it had acquired the property. Earlier this month, the company announced plans to redevelop it into the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and start a $375 million renovation.
The plan is to reopen in the summer 2018 under the Hard Rock banner.
Unique beach and betting experience
Atlantic City’s boardwalk casinos have always offered something unique. No where else in America can a gambler step away from the tables for a moment, walk across the warm sand and dip their toes in the Atlantic Ocean.
No place in the country offers the best of both a beach vacation and a casino and gaming experience all rolled into one.
These new casino resorts are betting millions that Americans still want this kind of thing. I hope they do, and all these plans to redevelop and revitalize the city gives me more hope than ever before that the Atlantic City I love is here to stay.