A new casino in AC is great, but diverse entertainment options are critical
The recent announcement the former Taj Mahal in Atlantic City will become the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was met with cheers. And why not? The city has been decimated in recent years. The announcement of a $375 million investment and the creation of thousands of jobs indeed is great news — at least in the short term.
We say the short term because, well, wasn’t it almost universally accepted that, a few years ago, Atlantic City had too many casinos? That almost halving the number of casinos since 2014 was a matter of right-sizing? That fewer casinos — now only seven — meant less cannibalization of remaining customers?
So now the answer is to open another casino? Maybe even two casinos, if the old Revel also reopens as one?
We’re all for economic investment in Atlantic City. And we like many of the non-gaming ideas, from water parks to video gaming experiences, special events and more because, to stick with the gambling parlance, putting all of your chips on gambling as an economic revival tool isn’t smart.
Las Vegas has learned that lesson. Since the millenium, non-gaming revenue has outpaced gaming revenue in that town. Casino operators have found more and more people would rather dance the nights — and days — away at mega-clubs or visit lavish pools than sit in front of a slot machine. Big drinks, fancy dinners and activities such as ziplining are part of the Vegas experience now, because that’s where the money is.
Another reason to diversify: the challenges to traditional casino gambling haven’t gone away and may be getting stronger. The casinos in surrounding states are still there. Internet gambling is growing. Hardcore gamblers, those who would visit AC just for the roll of the dice or the spin of the slot wheels, have many other options.
Hard Rock’s announcement indeed should be celebrated. Atlantic City has had more than enough bad economic news in recent years. Too many hard-working people lost their jobs.
But don’t just turn back the clock a few years and expect a different result this time. Diversity is critical.