As the Florida House and Senate debate legislation that could bring more gambling to Florida, this recent piece in the New York Daily News provides a stark look at a city that became dependent on gambling. This bleak portrait of Atlantic City should serve as a cautionary tale of the damage that gambling can do to communities.
Atlantic City doubles down on a bad bet
Casinos have a nasty term for what they want gamblers to do: “play to extinction.”
When there are just a few huge windowless boxes in a given area, they suck up the money nearby while returning as little of it as possible. With a sucker born every minute, new ones come in faster than extinct ones are spit out.
But when there are too many boxes, the house risks playing itself into extinction. Gov. Cuomo — who insists his plan to bring three or four new casinos to long-ailing patches of New York state will help revive them — needs to take a drive south to Atlantic City.
The faded beach town — which in 1978 became the only place on the east coast to legally gamble — is a few bright lights and plaster elephants surrounded by despair.
Spending five days there last month, it looked the same as it has for years, just with the lights off and letters stripped from the Trump Plaza and a couple of the other giant, vacant boxes. Across the street from the casinos on Pacific Ave., it’s motels, we-buy-your-gold shops and a few strip joints. A block down, on Atlantic Ave., people mill about midday by half-stocked bodegas, run-down take-out spots (and a couple of decent ones) and a few nostalgia and antique stores that have themselves seen better days.
The city of 40,000 souls has no movie theater outside of a casino. No real supermarket. Crime is high , heroin is all over and unemployment tops 15%. Not many of the pit bosses, dealers, bartenders or others who serve the casinos live there. Strippers and prostitutes, too, tend to visit or commute.
Read the entire story online here