2014-09-18 / Opinion

A Tale of Two Cities – With Apologies to Dickens

To the Editor:

Atlantic City has salt water taffy. The City of Newport has Del’s Lemonade. What do these two cities have in common? They are both vacation destinations, attracting visitors from near and far. They are bathed by the Atlantic Ocean with temperate waters and welcoming beaches in the summer.

Atlantic City has an attractive boardwalk that defines its perimeter. Newport has Ocean Drive, the Cliff Walk and Bellevue Avenue to show off its mansions.

What can Newport learn from its sister city? Gambling was legalized in Atlantic City in 1976. A robust vacation economy in the decades after World War II began to decline and gambling in the mid 70s was considered to be the antidote to revitalize the economy.

What better marriage than to unite the Jersey Shore with the hotel industry and the seductive charm and addiction of the gambling industry. Las Vegas came courting, as did Donald Trump and other investors. The Trump Plaza opened in 1984 to the tune of $210 million. The Revel Casino Hotel tipped the scales at $2.4 billion, although amazingly it never turned a profit! A quick aside to sports fans– this is the very hotel where Ray Rice, the star running back for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League, cold-cocked his fiancée in an elevator, only to have it caught on camera and the “youknow what” hit the fan!

By January 1, 2014 there were 12 magnificent hotel casinos in Atlantic City and by the end of 2014, four of them will have declared bankruptcy and closed. The Revel Casino is the most costly financial failure in 36 years of casino gambling.

Connecticut, our neighbor to the southwest, was caught up in the gambling enthusiasm with the birth of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, cannibalizing the natives, and each other. They exploded upon the scene to initially become the two most lucrative casinos in North America.

When the American casino glut eventually became supersaturated, they lost much of their glitter, and according to the Center for Policy Analysis, have registered their sixth straight yearly decline in gross gambling revenue as the casino empire collapses. In Atlantic City more than 8,000 people have lost their jobs.

In Massachusetts, the bride at the gambling altar is awaiting the choices of suitors, three or more, to be chosen for her mates. Who will they be and where will they come from? These liaisons will significantly impact the prosperity of the Twin Rivers Casino in Lincoln and prospects for future happiness in Newport. The likelihood of the Newport Grand Slot emporium (1,088 slots) being sold and developed into a full-fledged gambling casino is very much on the table. The prospective owners think that a high-end, beaux arts, Monacostyle boutique is just what Newport needs. Casinos to the north, east, south and west of us don’t seem to dim the enthusiasm of the gambling hordes!

Is there nothing to be learned from other people’s mistakes? How about the individual and social train wreck that a casino-based economy produces?

The New Jersey unemployment rate is higher than the national average and the state leads the nation in foreclosures. Between 2006 and 2007 the casino revenue fell from $5.2 billion to $2.8 billion. Broken homes and broken people are the stigma of the Atlantic City casino market.

Does the beauty and charm of Newport–America’s First Resort– need the specter of an Atlantic City gambling ghetto hanging over our heads? Cast a decisive “NO” to casinos to preserve our proud heritage. Ed Madden


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