Atlantic City: Economy
Atlantic City: Economy
Major Industries and Commercial Activity
The convention and tourism industry rebuilt Atlantic City's economy in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. Now one of the nation's top tourist attractions, the city boasts 13 gambling casino/hotels, which attracted 33 million visitors in 2004. Coupled with its famous beaches and boardwalk, Atlantic City's superb hotel accommodations annually draw nearly 5,000 conventions, trade shows, and meetings. Since 1975, the casinos have funneled $7 billion back into the city's economy in addition to creating some 55,000 jobs. A tax on casino gross revenue provides $300 million annually for state programs for seniors and the disabled. In addition, the Atlantic City Cape Community College features a Casino Career Institute, which has trained more than 46,000 students for employment in the gaming industry.
Although much of Atlantic City's economic development centers around the casinos, the local government has been pursuing its goal to diversify the economy through the development of themed restaurants, retail shopping, night clubs, museums, theaters, minor league baseball and other recreational attractions. Non-casino industries in Atlantic City include services, retail trade, real estate development, distilling, and deep sea fishing. Many of the goods produced are by-products of the convention/tourism trade.
Items and goods produced: saltwater taffy, clothing, bottles and glassware, plastics, boats, paints, hosiery, baby carriages, reed furniture, chinaware, creamery and poultry products, fish and seafood
Incentive Programs—New and Existing Businesses
Among the public and private agencies assisting businesses in Atlantic City are the Atlantic City Department of Planning and Development, the Casino Re-Investment Development Authority, the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, Atlantic City Housing Authority and Urban Redevelopment Agency, the Atlantic City–New Jersey Coordinating Council, and Atlantic County and its agencies. These agencies oversee casino re-investment funds, more than $100 million in city monies, and substantial luxury tax revenues.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) offers a wide range of financial, real estate development, and technical services to encourage business development and growth in the state. The majority of its assistance is to small and mid-sized businesses. The EDA issues bonds to provide financing at favorable interest rates for business ventures, and makes low-interest loans and guarantees loans made by private investors and lenders. It also offers a full range of real estate development services to stimulate both private and public development projects. In addition, the EDA administers a business incentive program that provides grants to expanding or relocating businesses that will create new jobs in New Jersey. Loans and grants also are available to municipalities and private property owners to encourage the clean-up and redevelopment of hazardous sites around the state. The New Jersey Urban Development Corporation provides low-interest loans to developers and businesses seeking to construct facilities in urban areas, including small business incubators.
The New Jersey Small Business Development Corporation (NJSBDC) network specializes in business planning, growth strategy, management strategy, and loan packaging, along with providing help in selling goods and services to government agencies, help to entrepreneurs in commercializing new technologies, linking up companies to local manufacturers who serve as mentors, and counseling for companies regarding overseas trade.
Job training programs
The New Jersey Business Employment Incentive Program Loan Program allows companies to receive up to an 80 percent rebate for ten years for the additional state income tax generated by creating new jobs. The state's business Relocation Assistance Grant Program provides relocation grants to businesses that create a minimum of 25 new full time jobs in the state.
The $268 million Atlantic City Convention Center is the cornerstone of a $5.6 billion renaissance that has transformed Atlantic City into a major visitor and meeting destination. Contributing to the popularity of the area is the Boardwalk Hall, originally built in 1929 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This carefully renovated Atlantic City Convention Center has been fully refurbished to blend the ambience of Atlantic City's original heyday with the amenities and accommodations that visitors expect in the twenty-first century. In 2003
Billboard magazine named Boardwalk Hall, renovated in 2001, as the top-grossing midsize arena in the United States.
The $4 million Atlantic City Visitor Welcome Center, located on the Expressway, services tourists as they approach town by car. Located next to Sandcastle Stadium in Chelsea Heights is the ice skating and hockey rink, Flyers Skate Zone.
In late 2004, Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa announced a $347 million expansion that would include a 45-story hotel tower, complementing previously revealed plans for a $200 million investment in expanded casino, restaurant, and shopping space. This will expand Borgata's guest rooms from 2,000 to 2,500 and add 100 suites and 200 luxury condominiums to the complex.
Economic Development Information: Casino Re-Investment Development Authority, 1014 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)347-0500. Atlantic City Department of Planning and Development, City Hall, Suite 604, 1301 Bacharach Blvd., Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)347-5404. New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth & Tourism Commission, 20 W. State St., PO Box 839, Trenton, NY 08625; telephone (609)777-0885
Freight shipped via air arrives at Philadelphia International Airport, Atlantic City International Airport in Pomona, and at Bader Field (Atlantic City Municipal Airport) near downtown. The closest major container shipping ports are in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Atlantic City is adjacent to the Garden State Parkway and is serviced by the Atlantic City Expressway.
Labor Force and Employment Outlook
Between 1975, the dawn of the era of legalized gambling in Atlantic City, and 2001, the combined wages of hotel workers in Atlantic City rose from $15 million to $1.1 billion.
The service sector continues to be Atlantic City's largest employer.
Plans are well underway to make the city a world-class resort through airport modernization and expansion and revitalization of the casino industry, and to pursue economic diversity through non-casino hotels, a theme park, beach and boardwalk enhancements, a new convention center, and a revitalized central business district. State-mandated casino reinvestments are earmarked for housing construction and economic development.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Atlantic City labor force, 2004 annual averages.
Size of nonagricultural labor force: 149,500
Number of workers employed in . . .
construction and mining: 6,600
trade, transportation, and utilities: 21,900
financial activities: 4,400
professional and business services: 9,800
educational and health services: 17,200
leisure and hospitality: 57,400
other services: 4,100
Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $15.67 (2004 statewide average)
Unemployment rate: 6.6% (February 2005)
|Largest employers||Number of employees|
|Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort||(no employee figures available)|
|Bally's Atlantic City|
|Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa|
|Harrah's Atlantic City|
|Resorts Atlantic City|
|Sands Casino Hotel|
|Showboat Casino Hotel|
|Tropicana Casino & Resort|
|Trump Marina Casino Resort|
|Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino|
|Trump's Taj Mahal Casino Resort|
Cost of Living
The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Atlantic City area.
2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported
2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported
State income tax rate: 1.4% for total income of $1 to $20,000; 1.75% for total income of $20,001 to $35,000; 3.5% for total income of $35,001 to $40,000; 5.525% for total income of $40,001 to $75,000; 6.37% for total income of $75,001 to $500,000; 8.97% for total income of $500,001 and up (2004).
State sales tax rate: 6%
Local income tax rate: None
Local sales tax rate: None (3% alcoholic beverage tax and 9% lodging and related services tax)
Property tax rate (effective): $2.96 per $100 of assessed value (2004)
Economic Information: Atlantic City Department of Planning & Development, City Hall, Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)347-5404
Atlantic City: Recreation
Atlantic City: Recreation
Opened in 1999, the $4 million Atlantic City Visitor Welcome Center, located on the expressway just outside the city, provides guests with up-to-date information on hotels, restaurants, attractions, shopping, festivals, events, and regional cultural and historical sites. The Boardwalk Information Center, in the center of town, provides walk-in visitors with regional guides and information on various attractions and amenities.
Atlantic City's premier attraction is its boardwalk, a nearly five-mile-long steel, concrete, and wooden structure stretching along the Atlantic Ocean beach. The structure was described in 1909 by a travel writer for a national magazine as "overwhelming in its crudeness—barbaric, hideous and magnificent." Roughly paralleling Atlantic and Pacific avenues, the boardwalk is 60 feet wide and home to a variety of shops, amusement stands, and eateries. Its surface is a patterned design of bethaburra, a Brazilian hardwood. Along its length, and well worth a close look, is Donald Trump's $1 billion Taj Mahal, adorned with Hindu elephant gods, multicolored onion domes, minarets, and $14 million of chandeliers.
The boardwalk continues its southward stretch into neighboring communities such as Ventnor. Running perpendicular to the Boardwalk are a series of entertainment piers, many of which have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Central Pier is known for its observation tower. Steeplechase Pier features children's amusements. Steel Pier, first opened in 1898, was a noted entertainment area. In 1990, the pier reopened as a family entertainment facility under the auspices of the Trump Taj Mahal complex. Garden Pier attracts culture lovers to the Arts Center and Historical Museum. Now a mall called Ocean One, the former Million Dollar Pier features shops and restaurants. The Tivoli Pier, part of the Trop World resort, is a 2-acre amusement park reminiscent of Atlantic City's carnival days. Legalized gambling and the glitter of the luxurious casino/hotels lining the boardwalk are other popular tourist attractions.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum has attracted the curious since 1996. The Absecon Lighthouse, which was built in 1854, was reopened to the public after a $3 million facelift. The 228-step historic structure is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and offers a bird's eye view of Atlantic City's dazzling skyline and the back bay area. Lucy the Margate Elephant is a six-story wood and metal structure built in the shape of an elephant. Located in nearby Margate and initially used as a bazaar site in 1881, Lucy is now a national historic site. Wheaton Village portrays life in an 1888 glass-making village; the Towne of Historic Smithville features colonial buildings and specialty shops. At the Marine Mammal Stranding Center and Museum in Brigantine, visitors can discover the wonders of the sea and learn about the care of ailing sea creatures.
Arts and Culture
Performing arts in Atlantic City take the form of top name entertainment offered at the casino/hotels' lounges and "big rooms," many of which seat more than 1,000 patrons. Innumerable singers, musicians, entertainers, dancers, and comedians, most of them Hollywood and Broadway stars, have taken the stage in Atlantic City. Recent improvements to Brighton Park along the boardwalk include a new amphitheater, which offers summertime concerts. Jazz concerts are scheduled at Historic Gardner's Basin.
Located on the boardwalk's Garden Pier is the Atlantic City Arts Center and Historical Museum. The center hosts art exhibits and shows all year long while the museum focuses on the city's 150-year history. The Circle Gallery on Park Place and the Lenox China Showroom are popular tourist stops. The Noyes Museum in Oceanville features a collection of regional duck decoys. Staff of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum in Atlantic City are noted in the Ripley hierarchy for their ability to find particularly unusual exhibits. The Ocean Life Center at Gardner's Basin has 8 tanks totaling 29,800 gallons of live exhibits, including a 23,000 gallon tank featuring the fish of northern New Jersey and a 750 gallon touch tank. Interestingly, the Ocean Life Center is accessible by car, on foot, and by boat.
Arts and Culture Information: Atlantic County Office of Cultural Affairs, 40 Farragut Avenue, Mays Landing, NJ 08330; telephone (609)625-2776
Festivals and Holidays
Atlantic City's most famous annual event is the Miss America Pageant, held the second week of September. Begun in 1921, the pageant generates an aura of festivity, including the Miss America Ocean Powerboat Race. Other annual events include the Atlantic City Boat Show in January and the Antique Auto Show in February. The city's Easter Parade has been an eagerly awaited event for generations of Atlantic City residents and visitors alike. In late May comes the symbolic Unlocking of the Ocean. The city sponsors Boardwalk Art Shows in June and September. In early July, the annual New Jersey Fresh Seafood Festival, described as a "sea appreciation party," takes place at Historic Gardner's Basin Maritime Park, a turn-of-the-century fishing village. Anglers are attracted to the Atlantic City Tuna Tournament in late July. The Wedding of the Sea in mid-August is celebrated with music, floats, a parade, sidewalk sales, and ceremonies held at Mississippi Avenue and the beach. Atlantic City's Marlin Tournament is held each August as well.
Sports for the Spectator
The Atlantic City Race Course, 14 miles west of the city, presents thoroughbred racing during the summer and simulcasts of racing events the remainder of the year. The Atlantic City Surf, a professional baseball team affiliated with the Atlantic League, plays near Bader Field in the $14.5 million Sandcastle Stadium, a 75,000-square-foot facility. The 5,900-seat stadium offers grandstand and premium deck seating, 20 luxury skyboxes, oversized concession areas, a souvenir shop, team clubhouses, administrative offices and 2,000 parking spaces. Other professional sports events, especially boxing matches, are sponsored by the city's casino/hotels. Annual events include the National Powerboat Races, State Sailing Championships, Shop Rite LPGA (women's golf) tournament (formerly the Atlantic City Classic), and professional polo matches, bowling competitions, and bicycle races.
Sports for the Participant
It is the pristine beaches along Absecon Island that draw thousands of swimmers and water sports enthusiasts every year. Surfers ride the breakers that wash the beaches, and sailors and powerboaters enjoy the ocean and inlet waters in the area. Ocean fishing is a popular sport, both from the shores of the coastal waters and from the decks of boats miles out to sea. Facilities in and around Atlantic City accommodate those wishing to play squash, tennis, racquet-ball, and golf. Bicycling, walking, and jogging along the boardwalk are picturesque as well as good exercise. Many of the casino/hotels offer guests complete fitness and athletic facilities.
Shopping and Dining
Atlantic City's most unusual shopping destination is Shops on Ocean One at Arkansas Avenue and the Boardwalk. Built in the shape of a luxury ocean liner, Ocean One features 150 stores, restaurants, and an amusement park, all spread over three levels and extending over the ocean. The city's major downtown shopping area occupies Atlantic Avenue and the avenues intersecting it. The Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing is the area's largest shopping center, boasting more than 150 stores and restaurants. In nearby Pleasantville, the Shore Mall offers 75 shops and eateries, plus a movie theater complex. For the bargain hunter, every Tuesday and Saturday the Cowtown Rodeo in Woodstown has a flea market. Historic Wheaton Village in Millville is a replica of a Victorian glass-making town, complete with gift and craft shops, plus there are several other uniquely themed, quaint shopping plazas throughout neighboring communities.
Delicatessen fare and fresh seafood are noteworthy Atlantic City offerings. Many of the delis along the Boardwalk feature stacked sandwiches, kosher hot dogs, and garlic dill pickles, the likes of which are seldom seen south of New York City. Fresh catches from the Atlantic include oysters, crabs, clams, and a variety of deep-sea fish. Dining is elegantly formal in many of the casino/hotel restaurants, a number of which specialize in assorted international cuisines. Traditional American fare can be had at colonial-era inns in Historic Smithville. Atlantic City is also the birthplace of salt water taffy and visitors may sample dozens of flavors along the boardwalk and in candy shops. The Historic Renault Winery and Vineyard in Egg Harbor City is renowned along the East Coast for its wines and gourmet food.
Visitor Information: The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, 2314 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)348-7100; toll-free (888)222-3683. State of New Jersey, Dept. of Commerce, Energy, and Economic Development, Div. of Travel and Tourism, CN-826, Trenton, NJ 08625-0826; telephone (609)777-0885; toll-free (800)847-4865
Called the "City by the Sea," the "Queen of Resorts," or "The World's Favorite Playground," Atlantic City, New Jersey, was the most celebrated family entertainment resort in the United States from the 1880s until World War II. Theodore Roosevelt once claimed that "A man would not be a good American citizen if he did not know of Atlantic City." After falling into decline for almost thirty years, since 1978 Atlantic City has become a center for legalized casino gambling and is once again one of America's most popular destinations, with over 37 million visitors in 1997. Famous for its Boardwalk, amusement piers, and street names, which were the basis of the original Monopoly board game, Atlantic City is also an important convention center and the home of the Miss America Pageant, which has been held there since its origin in 1921 and continues to be one of the most popular television spectaculars.
Located on Absecon Island along the New Jersey seashore, sixty miles southeast of Philadelphia, Atlantic City's development started in 1852 when civil engineer Richard Osborne and prominent local physician Dr. Jonathan Pitney persuaded some investors to bring the railroad to the island, thus forming the Camden-Atlantic Railroad Company. The first train to Atlantic City arrived on July 1, 1854, after a two-and-a-half-hour trip from Camden. Subsequently, flows of tourists followed, and the national aspirations already present in the street nomenclature established by Samuel Richards began to become reality. After the Civil War, the popularity of the wide avenues parallel to the ocean, named after the world's great bodies of water, and the perpendicular streets running east to west and named after the States, expanded and gained international fame, drawing guests from all over the world.
Between 1875 and 1910, Atlantic City boomed. Growing from around 250 inhabitants in 1855 and 2,000 in 1875, the population reached 27,000 residents by the census of 1900 and almost 50,000 in 1910. With inexpensive train access and, within a couple of years, a declining travelling time to Philadelphia from 90 to 50 minutes, daily round trips became very attractive to lower-middle-class urban dwellers. Consequently, hordes of transient visitors flocked to the resort, especially on sunny Sundays. As Atlantic City grew, massive and grandiose hotels like the United States, the Traymore, the glamorous Shellburne, or the fantastic Marlborough-Blenheim, as well as smaller boardinghouses sprang up all over the city. Atlantic City's hotels not only met the demand for accommodations, but they also provided popular entertainment such as dances, concerts, billiards, and roller-skating. By 1888, Atlantic City counted over five hundreds hotels and boardinghouses. They constituted the heart of the town.
In 1870, in order to allow tourists to enjoy walking along the ocean without the inconvenience of rugged nature, the City Council—encouraged by the railroad companies—built the nation's first boardwalk, an 8 foot wide wood structure, which, over the years, would become "the" place to be seen and the social and economic spine of the town. Enlarged successively to 14, 20, and 24 feet in 1880, 1884, and 1890, respectively, the fifth boardwalk of 1896 was a 40-foot wide steel-framed wooden esplanade extending about four miles long, packed with hotels, restaurants, and shops offering souvenirs, photographic portraits, refreshments, and saltwater taffy—a candy that was invented here in 1883. Tourists quickly discovered the pleasure of engaging in recreational shopping, a new phenomenon that would become an institutionalized feature of American culture.
The Boardwalk was an open stage upon which strollers could participate in a permanent great show. As its popularity increased, Colonel George W. Howard constructed the world's first ocean amusement pier in 1882, a 650-foot long structure located off the boardwalk, into the Atlantic Ocean. In the following years, many developers and advertisers re-used his brilliant idea and amusement piers started to spring up along the boardwalk. Some of the most well known and successful ones were Ocean Pier (1891), Steel Pier (1898) named also "The Show Place of the Nation," Million Dollar Pier (1906), Steeplechase Pier (1908) and the Garden Pier (1912). They provided plenty of varied attractions and almost continuous entertainment from band concerts, light operas and musicals, dance contests, vaudeville shows, spectacles led by performers like W.C. Fields, Frank Sinatra, or the escape artist Harry Houdini, to the high-diving horse at Steel Pier, the inauguration of the Miss America Pageant, Dr. Couney's premature infant exhibit, merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, sand "sculptures," and other amusements in endless variety to please everyone's taste.
In this pre-Disneyland era, Atlantic City had converted itself into an urban amusement park for visitors, a glamorous fairyland of grandiose display, and a kingdom of flashy architecture and perpetual pleasure. Atlantic City was a cultural symbol. A product of the lower-middle-class urban masses that constituted the largest part of its patrons and sources of revenues, the city reflected their tastes and aspirations. For many of its visitors, Atlantic City was a dream that had come true, a city from the tales of the Arabian nights, heaven on earth, or the eighth wonder of the world—all this despite its omnipresent commercial atmosphere, aggressive advertising campaigns, and strong emphasis on financial profits.
Until World War II, Atlantic City's future seemed bright, but the post-war development of commercial air travel ended its heyday. As tourists from the Northeast United States increasingly flew to Florida and the Caribbean for their vacation, the city declined and became a decaying shadow of its former self. The city's population fell from 64,000 in 1940 to 37,000 in 1990. In 1989, the median income of the city was $12,017 compared with a New Jersey statewide median of $18,870. With the passage of the casino gambling referendum in 1976 and since the opening of the first casino in May 1978, Atlantic City has struggled to revive its economy and undergo a renewal and a revitalization process. Twenty years later, the city boasts thirteen casinos offering 24-hour non-stop action and is now recognized worldwide as a gaming mecca. Nevertheless, even though the Board-walk and the waterfront have been restored and made prosperous, many neighborhoods of Atlantic City continue to suffer from urban blight and the role of gambling in urban revitalization is still being debated.
—Catherine C. Galley
Funnel, Charles E. By the Beautiful Sea: The Rise and High Times of that Great American Resort, Atlantic City. New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1983.
Lencek, Lena, and Gideon Bosker. The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth. Harmondsworth, Viking Penguin, 1998.
Mahon, Gigi. The Company that Bought the Boardwalk: A Reporter's Story of How Resorts International Came to Atlantic City. New York, Random House, 1980.
McMahon, William H. So Young—So Gay! Story of the Boardwalk, 1870-1970. Atlantic City, New Jersey, Atlantic City Press, 1970.
Sternlieb, George, and James W. Hughes. The Atlantic City Gamble. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1983.
Teski, Marea, et al. A City Revitalized: The Elderly Lose at Monopoly. London, University Press of America, 1983.
Atlantic City, located in southeastern New Jersey on the Atlantic Ocean, was founded in 1854 by a local doctor, Jonathan Pitney, and a Philadelphia civil engineer, Richard Osborne, who saw the site as an opportunity to provide health-giving cool sea breezes to city people in the summer. They built the Camden and Atlantic Railroad, the shortest railroad line connecting Philadelphia (sixty miles away) to the wide beaches of the Jersey shore. In 1870, in order to reduce the tramping of sand into stores and hotels, an eight-foot wide wooden walk was built, linking the beach with the town. Ten years later, a much longer boardwalk was constructed along the shore. Eventually, the wooden walkway extended six miles and was sixty feet wide. This innovation attracted genteel crowds who strolled along its smooth and sand-free walkway, delighting in the vistas of ocean and displaying themselves to other usually well-dressed walkers.
The new influx of customers led to the building of luxury hotels such as Surf House and United State Hotel, along with rooming houses and smaller, less commodious hotels for the middle class. Atlantic City became famous for its well-ordered beaches (controlled by a patrol established in 1881) and Sunday restrictions on drinking and popular music. Modern technology came early too, such as an electric trolley in 1893. Genteel standards were assured by the presence of substantial and large summer cottages used by the families of business and professional elites from Philadelphia.
Nevertheless, more plebeian crowds were attracted to the piers that sprang up along the boardwalk. These piers featured new mechanical rides in the 1890s, as well as freak shows and shooting galleries. While the town attempted to preserve a respectable middle-class social tone, pressure from the down-market day trippers with cheap train tickets from Philadelphia and New Jersey towns gradually eroded these standards.
By 1900, Atlantic City was drawing more than 100,000 visitors on peak summer weekends. In the twentieth century, attractions ranged from vaudeville and jazz bands to the Miss America pageant, which has been held in Atlantic City every September since 1921. Productions headed for Broadway often first tried out their shows in Atlantic City in the 1920s and 1930s.
These and other attractions failed to draw patrons after World War II, when the more affluent deserted the ocean-front hotels to rent or purchase beach houses on Long Beach Island, New Jersey; the Hamptons on Long Island, New York; or farther afield. Low-income vacationers also left the rooming houses for newer motels and flashier boardwalks elsewhere along the Jersey shore. The availability of cars freed vacationers from the old haunts of their train-dependent parents, and by the 1970s cheap and fast air travel, especially to the Caribbean and Florida (especially Disney World, established in 1971) further contributed to the decline of Atlantic City. The town had not only failed to invest in improvements, but its dependence on customers during the relatively short summer season made it impossible to compete with new southern resorts.
In 1976, New Jersey voters approved a referendum allowing casino gambling in Atlantic City. Promoters hoped to reverse the town's fortunes by introducing gamblers from the East Coast to legal and local games. By 1995, the city's casino industry employed 30,000 people directly and 40,000 in related industries; in 1993, 30 million visitors to the city wagered more than $3 billion in the city's thirteen major hotel-casinos. Once the nation's premier beach resort, Atlantic City (population 40,517 in 2000) became the East Coast's gambling mecca, with a daily pilgrimage made by many people of relatively modest means, often retirees traveling by bus, to its casinos.
The 1976 gambling referendum was intended to restore the city to prosperity and to yield revenue for the state's programs for education, senior citizens, and the disabled. Gambling revenues certainly aided these groups, but Atlantic City remained divided in the 1990s between the glitz of the beachfront casinos and the poverty of the rest of the city. Moreover, its future as a gambling center became uncertain as other states legalized casino and riverboat gambling or permitted Native Americans to operate casinos on their own territory.
Casino gambling brought prosperity back to the boardwalk, but hopes that gambling would restore prosperity to the entire city had not been met by the early 2000s. Most visitors to the city continued to be daytrippers, who went directly to the casinos and avoided the rest of the city. Additionally, casino jobs were held predominantly by commuters from outside the city. Decaying tenement buildings and empty lots still stood in the shadow of the casinos in the early twenty-first century, despite attempts by developers to diversify the city's economy with a convention center and shopping malls. Atlantic City has not suffered the fate of its New York counterpart, Coney Island, with the demolition of almost all of its early twentieth century attractions. However, as a representative of an earlier commercial leisure site built around a mix of genteel hotels, boardwalks, and shows on the one hand, and plebeian pleasures of amusement parks and sideshows on the other, it has only partially been able to shift to a new mode of commercialized leisure, modern casino gambling.
Funnell, Charles. By the Beautiful Sea: The Rise and High Times of That Great American Resort, Atlantic City. New York: Random House, 1975.
Levi, Vicki Gold, and Lee Eisenberg. Atlantic City: 125 Years of Ocean Madness. New York, 1979.
Paulsson, Martin. The Social Anxieties of Progressive Reform: Atlantic City, 1854–1920. New York, 1994.
Sternlieb, George, and James W. Hughes. The Atlantic City Gamble. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Atlantic City: History
Atlantic City: History
Railroad Alters Quiet Fishing Settlement
The first to enjoy the beaches and fishing off Absecon Island were members of the Lenni-Lenape tribe. They named their sandy summer home Absecon, meaning "place of swans." These Native Americans were followed in 1783 by New Jersey settlers who established a permanent site for a fishing village at the north end of the island. They called their town Absecon. For a half century, the inhabitants lived uneventful lives on the 10-mile long sandbar. Then, in the early 1850s, Dr. Jonathan Pitney realized the island's tremendous potential as a health spa and resort. In 1852, Pitney and a group of visionary business investors obtained a railroad charter that brought the Camden & Atlantic Railroad to the island. Railroad engineer Richard Osborne planned a city on the site of the village of Absecon and in 1854 Atlantic City was incorporated.
The resort/spa succeeded beyond anyone's imagining. Wealthy businessmen and their families from Philadelphia and up and down the East Coast flocked to the new resort. To capitalize on its beaches, the townspeople laid down the first boardwalk in 1870, laying wooden planks upon the beach so that it could be enjoyed even during the hottest part of the day. With the construction of the boardwalk and its accompanying eateries and amusement stands, Atlantic City became a major tourist attraction. Vacationers and invalids coexisted happily in the Victorian-era town, living in ornate wooden boarding houses and enjoying the boardwalk in the rolling chairs invented in the city in 1884. The first of a half-dozen amusement piers was built in 1882, contributing to the city's carnival-like atmosphere. Saltwater taffy was created in 1883 when an entrepreneur's candy stand on the beach was flooded during high tide. The enterprising merchant immediately dubbed his saturated delicacies "saltwater" taffy. By 1887, heavy tourist traffic decreed the building of a second rail line into the city. In 1895 a visitor returning from Europe introduced to local merchants German-style picture postcards which instantly became popular on Atlantic City souvenir stands.
By 1915 traffic again warranted expanded services, this time in the form of the famous jitney line, which provided tourists with transportation in private automobiles. The first Miss America Pageant was held in Atlantic City in 1921; it was discontinued in 1928 and revived in 1935. The Atlantic City Auditorium/Convention Hall on the boardwalk opened in 1929. It was in 1929 that Charles Darrow introduced Monopoly, the board game that made Atlantic City's streets well known throughout America. During World War II, the U.S. Army used Atlantic City as a training site. A 1944 hurricane washed away nearly half the boardwalk, but it was quickly rebuilt.
Legalized Gambling Revitalizes City
Following the war, Atlantic City's tourist trade tapered off as economical airfare to the exotic Caribbean and Florida became available. Without the proceeds of the summer trade that sustained the city year-long, Atlantic City sank into disuse and widespread urban decay. In 1974, New Jersey residents voted not to approve a gambling law that was on the ballot. In 1976, the resolution appeared again but was restricted to introducing gambling into Atlantic City in the hope of reviving the resort's economy. The second resolution was approved and Atlantic City became the first city in the eastern half of the U.S. to offer legal gambling. The first casino/hotel, Resorts International, opened in May 1978, and was quickly followed by 10 others. By 1988, the casino industry employed 40,000 people and was a major draw for the city's 30 million annual visitors. Property in Atlantic City was valued at $6 billion by 1988.
Since the institution of the gambling industry, Atlantic City has been plagued by persistent rumors about organized and street crime. Many experts agree, however, that Atlantic City's casinos are free of organized crime. Street crime is being addressed directly by increased police presence, and indirectly through an energetic redevelopment plan for the city. As a result of the city's efforts, the crime rate dropped nearly 50 percent between 1988 and 2003.
The city's casino revenue reinvestment program, along with city, state, and federal dollars, is being used to revitalize decaying neighborhoods off the boardwalk and to attract additional retail and office business. With the creation of the Special Improvement District, most of the city's downtown commercial district now displays decorative fencing, pavements and lights, new trees, banners, and other aesthetic enhancements. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has invested $225 million in new residential construction, building 1,897 new housing units within Atlantic City's boundaries. For fiscal year 2005, the city has $2,736,159 budgeted for redevelopment and improvements.
Atlantic City offers conventioneers, vacationers, casino- and beach-goers a convenient place to network and relax, and is within a day's driving distance of one-third of the nation's population.
Historical Information: Historian, Atlantic City Free Public Library, One North Tennessee Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)345-2269. Atlantic City Arts Center and Historical Museum, New Jersey Avenue & Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)347-5837
ATLANTIC CITY , one of the most frequently visited tourist sites on the East Coast of the United States, located off the southern New Jersey coast and part of a two-county area rich in Jewish culture and identity opportunity. At the outset of the 21st century, over 15,000 year-round Jewish residents lived in the Atlantic/Cape May bi-county area, which more than triples in population in the summer months. The gaming mecca with its nearby historic Boardwalk exists basically on Absecon Island, which includes Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, and the downbeach community of Longport. The area has various synagogues of most denominations including two thriving Reform congregations, several well-attended Conservative congregations, and a small but growing Orthodox population. Wildwood, part of Cape May County, is home to another Conservative congregation.
The first Jewish settlers arrived in 1880, when the city was already a summer resort for Philadelphians. Ten years later the first congregation, Beth Israel (Reform), was founded, followed by Rodef Sholom (Orthodox) in 1896. From the outset Jews gravitated to the tourist-oriented industries. They have continued in this capacity and in the professions, while also playing a leading role in the city's cultural and philanthropic activities. Jewish organizational life developed gradually. As precursors to what now exists a Young Men's Hebrew Association was founded in 1911, and in 1916 the Hebrew Sheltering Home was founded to provide a temporary haven for indigent persons needing food and lodging. This then evolved into the 155-bed Hebrew Old Age Center, now formally known as Seashore Gardens Living Center, providing geriatric care. From the Montefiore True Sisters, who provided food baskets to the needy, evolved the Federation of Jewish Agencies, founded in 1923 to coordinate all fundraising, budgeting, and community planning for local, national, and overseas agencies. There was a community weekly, the Jewish Record, founded in 1939, which existed until the early 1990s. As with many northeastern cities and even the famed Catskill Resort area in New York, during the middle of the 20th century, Atlantic City underwent a decline. With the advent of air conditioning and with non-Jewish hotels ending their policy of excluding Jews, the Jewish hotels declined and went out of business. The introduction of gaming was intended to revive investment in the city and to make it a tourist destination once again. By then many Jews and most Jewish institutions had left the city. By the turn of the 20th century Atlantic and Cape May counties rather than Atlantic City had become the center of Jewish life.
Atlantic County boasts two popular kosher restaurants, two day schools (Jewish Community Day School of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, housed in a new building in Northfield, and the Trocki Hebrew Academy, which is located in Egg Harbor Township), a mikveh, and a newly expanded network of social service agencies. They include the brand new Katz Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family Service, both housed as part of the "community campus" environment in Margate City. Also part of the campus is the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties as well as the local Board of Jewish Education. During the summer season the well-known Camp By the Sea is a thriving area for local and summer youth held at the jcc.
Atlantic City is home to the Jewish Older Adult Services agency and in nearby Galloway Township the Seashore Gardens Living Center accommodates both assisted living and long-term care in a magnificent facility opened in 2003. Seashore Gardens offers kosher living to all of its residents. Nearby Cape May is a peaceful paradise for summer and year-round visitors who want pristine beaches, a beautiful walkway, lots of hotels, and bed and breakfast choices along with top-notch restaurants. A newspaper, the Jewish Times, located in Pleasantville, serves the local community with its weekly publication.
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, a growing college in the New Jersey State Higher Education system, is also the center for the Holocaust Resource Center. Here those interested in this academic area find a study environment conducive to this highly regarded program. The rscnj campus offers a myriad of degree choices, including a baccalaureate degree in Jewish Studies and a masters degree program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
[Linda S. Kulp (2nd ed.)]
Atlantic City: Education and Research
Atlantic City: Education and Research
Elementary and Secondary Schools
Among its many special programs, the Atlantic City public schools offer a gifted and talented program, a preschool program, English as a Second Language, a K & 1 Write to Read program, and a special truancy program. The school system has instituted a computerized managed instruction program that provides most students access to the schools' computer labs. Special software developed to coincide with texts in use and standardized tests complements the hardware. The high school, Atlantic City High, opened in the mid-1990s following an investment of some $80 million. Atlantic City's schools saw an increase in test scores in 2004, most notably in elementary language proficiency. Just over 60 percent of students were deemed at least proficient in language in 2004, up from 22 percent in 2003. High schoolers saw a combined increase of 4.5 percent in writing and mathematics in 2004. Among the challenges that face educators in the Atlantic City school system is the high rate of poverty; in 2005, 81.5 percent of enrolled students were identified as living below poverty level.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Atlantic City Public School system as of the 2004–2005 school year.
Total enrollment: 7,159
Number of facilities elementary schools: 8
junior high/middle schools: 2
senior high schools: 1
Student/teacher ratio: 25:1
Teacher salaries average: $53,897 (2004)
Funding per pupil: $11,123 (2004)
Public Schools Information: Atlantic City Public Schools, 1300 Atlantic Avenue, 5th Floor, Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)343-7200
Colleges and Universities
The nearest institution of higher learning is Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona, an easy commute to the west. The school offers bachelor's degrees in business, arts, and sciences. Special programs include interdisciplinary studies in gerontology, Judaism, Africana studies, Latin American/Caribbean studies, teacher education, and women's studies. Together with its academic curricula, Stockton offers students cooperative education, internships, and study abroad. Atlantic Community College, based in Mays Landing, holds "casino schools" in Atlantic City, teaching tourists the skills needed to play the games of chance in the city's casinos.
Libraries and Research Centers
The public library system consists of the Atlantic City Free Public Library, the main facility, and the Richmond Branch Library. In addition to its 104,000 volumes, the system makes available magazines, videos, records, and cassettes. The library's History of Atlantic City Collection includes books, periodicals, pamphlets, postcards, maps, Miss America yearbooks, and period souvenirs. Information about New Jersey history and genealogy is also catalogued.
Within Atlantic City are several specialized libraries, including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Technical Information Research Facility at the Atlantic City Airport; and the Health Science Library of the Atlantic City Division of the Atlantic City Medical Center. The William J. Hughes Technical Center Library is a leading aviation research and testing facility designated as an emergency space shuttle landing site. At the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, mammals that have been rescued and deemed beyond saving are studied for what they can reveal about mammalian illness.
Public Library Information: Atlantic City Free Public Library, One North Tennessee Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ 08401; telephone (609)345-2269; fax (609)345-5570
Atlantic City: Transportation
Atlantic City: Transportation
Approaching the City
Atlantic City International Airport in Pomona is nine miles west of Atlantic City. A three-phase multimillion-dollar expansion and modernization project has doubled and modernized terminal space and plans call for further expansion. Atlantic City International Airport is serviced by Spirit Airlines and Delta Connection. Bader Field, the Atlantic City Municipal Airport near downtown Atlantic City, accommodates commuter and charter flights and private planes. The city intends the eventual closing of Bader Field to make it available for private development. Major airports handling Atlantic City traffic are Philadelphia International Airport, 60 miles to the west, and Newark International Airport, 140 miles to the north. Limousine and bus service is available to Atlantic City from both airports.
Numerous commercial and charter buses travel into Atlantic City; the public bus terminal is at Arctic and Arkansas avenues. New Jersey Transit train service is available from cities in New Jersey and from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Trains arrive at the Rail Terminal, immediately adjacent to the Convention Center Complex.
The major highway into Atlantic City is the Atlantic City Expressway. U.S. 30 reaches the city via Absecon Boulevard while U.S. 40/322 parallels Albany Avenue; both are surface routes and tend to be congested. The Garden State Parkway runs north-south outside the city and is a major access route.
Traveling in the City
Atlantic City follows a rigid grid pattern. Streets running parallel to the Atlantic Ocean are known by ocean or sea names; streets running perpendicular bear states' names. The city has placed Monopoly Board style street signs along the Boardwalk, together with 1920s style light fixtures and art deco facade treatments to pavilions. The boardwalk runs along the ocean, curving westward to follow Absecon Channel.
Atlantic City's famous jitneys still offer travel in small private cars in Atlantic City. Boardwalk trams, taxis, buses, and rental cars are available. Parking spaces are at a premium, both in garages and on the streets. The convention center has 1,400 parking spaces available to visitors. Casino/hotel guests pay to have their vehicles sheltered.
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey, founded in 1854 on the Jersey Shore, soon became the nation's premier beach resort. The city's elegant hotels and simple rooming houses serviced luxury travelers as well as middle-class vacationers and day-trippers from nearby cities. Diverse tourists crowded the four-mile-long boardwalk and ocean piers, which offered such attractions as dance bands, a diving horse, and, beginning in 1921, the Miss America Pageant. Increasingly, however, wealthy travelers favored beach houses in the Hamptons or farther afield, and low-income tourists preferred newer motels and flashier board-walks elsewhere along the Jersey Shore.
Because of the decline in tourism, the city suffered economically in the mid-twentieth century. This trend reversed after 1976, when New Jersey voters approved a referendum to allow casino gambling in Atlantic City to restore the city's prosperity and yield revenue for educational and social programs. The first casino opened in 1978. Soon afterward, Atlantic City became the eastern seaboard's gambling mecca and witnessed sharp economic growth. The city remained divided, however, between the glitz of the beachfront casinos and the poverty and high unemployment elsewhere in the city. Moreover, its future as a gambling center became uncertain as other states legalized casino and riverboat gambling or permitted Native Americans to operate casinos. Still, New Jersey committed to redeveloping Atlantic City by funding airport renovations, a new convention center, and other projects.
Funnell, Charles E. By the Beautiful Sea: The Rise and High Times of That Great American Resort, Atlantic City. New York: Knopf, 1975.
Paulsson, Martin. The Social Anxieties of Progressive Reform: Atlantic City, 1854–1920. American Social Experience Series. New York: New York University Press, 1994.
Sternlieb, George, and James W. Hughes. The Atlantic City Gamble. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Atlantic City: Communications
Atlantic City: Communications
Newspapers and Magazines
Atlantic City's daily newspaper, The Press of Atlantic City, appears each morning. Atlantic City Magazine, with its listings of events, is published monthly.
Television and Radio
One television station originates in Atlantic City, NBC-10. Atlantic City also receives Philadelphia stations and is serviced by a cable television franchise. The four AM and FM radio stations in the city broadcast a variety of music, talk, and religious shows.
Media Information: The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave, Pleasantville, NJ 08232; telephone (609)272-7000
Atlantic City Online
Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Bureau Authority. Available www.atlanticcitynj.com
Atlantic City Free Public Library. Available library.atlantic.city.lib.nj.us/ac
Atlantic City Public Schools. Available alpha1.acboe.org
City of Atlantic City Home Page. Available www.cityofatlanticcity.org
New Jersey Commerce & Economic Growth Commission. Available www.state.nj/commerce/dcedhome.htm
New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Available www.njeda.com
Carnesworthe, pseud., Atlantic City. Its Early and Modern History (Philadelphia, W.C. Harris, 1868)
Hall, John F., The Daily Union History of Atlantic City and County, New Jersey. Containing Sketches of the Past and Present of Atlantic City and County . . . (Atlantic City, N.J., The Daily Union Printing Co., 1900)
Levi, Vicki Gold, Atlantic City, 125 Years of Ocean Madness: Starring Miss America, Mr. Peanut, Lucy the Elephant, the High Diving Horse, and Four Generations of Americans Cutting Loose (New York: C.N. Potter: Distributed by Crown Publishers, 1979)