Gambling No Longer The Biggest Draw For Atlantic City Tourism
Back in the seventies and eighties, there was one major reason to go to New Jersey on vacation, and that was the ability to gamble in Atlantic City casinos. Now, with casinos popping up in nearly every US state, travelers are heading out to AC for a different reason.
A study completed for the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming suggests that vacationers are now choosing to go to Atlantic City for the beaches, rather than the casinos. It is a stark difference from the days when AC was the second-largest gaming destination in the US behind Nevada.
"People used to come here and they never even went down to the beach," said one AC casino executive, who wished to remain anonymous. "Now, I see people walking around on the boardwalk, hanging out at the beach, and some of those people never even make it to the casino floor. They go straight from their rooms to the beach, and back. It is weird, and interesting at the same time."
Much of the problem for AC casinos is the expansion of gambling in neighboring states. Maryland, Delaware, New York, Maine, and Massachusetts have all authorized new casinos in recent years. Pennsylvania, relatively new to the casino industry, has passed New Jersey as the second-largest gaming revenue state in the country.
"Things are changing," said Taylor Roush, visiting Atlantic City from Rhode Island. "I guess people can gamble whenever they want now in their own states, so it makes sense that people would come here for the beach. That's why I am here. My family needed a getaway, and we came here. It is much more family-friendly than it was twenty years ago."
In the study, nearly 700 people were polled by telephone. Over 38% said that vacations or getaways was their reason for visiting Atlantic City. Only 27% stated that gambling was the main reason for their trips to AC.
To go to Roush's point about AC turning into a kid-friendly environment, the poll shows that the amount of travelers that have gone to AC with children under the age of 18 has doubled from the last survey, two years ago, from nine to 18%.
Atlantic City gaming officials and New Jersey lawmakers have been working on ways to bring gamblers back to the once-famous casino haven. Earlier this year, laws were passed allowing AC casinos to operate online casinos and sports books in their resorts. The online casinos are expected to be operational by the end of the year, while the sports betting still needs to clear some federal law hurdles.