Even before a slew of casino closings hit Atlantic City, gambling operators, government officials and regulators had been working to improve the resort's prospects. Here's a look at five things they're doing:
As part of a five-year turnaround plan, Gov. Chris Christie and state lawmakers dedicated additional resources to helping the seaside resort. The Atlantic City Alliance is taking the $30 million a year the casinos once paid the state's horse racing industry for keeping slot machines out of New Jersey's racetracks and is instead using it to promote Atlantic City in the region and nationally. Its "Do AC" campaign is working to improve perceptions of Atlantic City and get the word out that it has more than just casinos.
Casinos are adding new restaurants, nightclubs and amenities like the beachfront Margaritaville complex at Resorts Casino Hotel, The Quarter at Tropicana and The Pool at Harrah's. That effort has since spread to noncasino properties, including The Walk shopping outlet where a new Bass Pro Shop is due to open next year. The Miss America pageant returned last year to the place where it began.
CONVENTIONS AND FREEBIES
Atlantic City is making a concerted effort to go after more convention and meeting business to fill its hotels during weekdays, when many rooms sit empty. It started a marketing group, Meet AC, to seek convention business, and Caesars Entertainment is building a $126 million convention center next to Harrah's to complement the existing Atlantic City Convention Center. The city also is focusing on free public events designed to draw people and send them home happy — none of which involve gambling. Country music stars Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum are playing free concerts on the beach, while other events include a daredevil aerial show, sand sculpting contest, beach volleyball tournament and the Miss America "show us your shoes" parade.
New Jersey launched online gambling in November as a way to bring new revenue to the casinos and hopefully entice people to the brick-and-mortar casinos through comps or marketing offers. Although Internet gambling revenue has declined in each of the past three months, it is still helping to make up for some of the lost casino revenue. PokerStars could kick-start things if it is cleared by state regulators.
State officials reduced some of the regulations the casinos found burdensome and costly as part of a regulatory remake a few years ago.