AC of tomorrow?

What’s the Atlantic City of the future going to look like? I think we have an inkling of an answer with this story from the Press:

Atlantic City casinos may be opposed to competition at Bader Field, but the director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority told a Senate Committee on Thursday that the property is too valuable to be ruled out as a gaming hall.

“At some point in the game, we don’t know when, we surely envision additional casino operations at this site,” CRDA Executive Director Tom Carver told the Senate Tourism and Gaming Committee.

Carver called the Bader Field site “150 acres in the middle of everything,” making it perhaps the most valuable piece of real estate in the state. He said the CRDA is conducting studies on the behalf of Atlantic City to come up with a development plan that looks at how Bader Field can be used to guarantee the best continuing return investment to the city.

The idea of adding a casino at Bader Field has drawn opposition from other casino executives as well as some members of Atlantic City Council. Dan Lee, CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., has said a Bader Field casino would be a deal breaker for the company’s plans to redevelop the Sands with a $1.5 billion casino. Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., the largest casino operator in Atlantic City, has also made public statements opposing the construction of a casino at Bader Field.

Asked about that opposition after his testimony, Carver said, “The key to it is it would have to be timed so it would not interfere with anything that is going on now and not be disadvantageous.” Carver added, “We certainly don’t want to put the lid on development in Atlantic City.”

CRDA chief: Don’t rule out a casino at Bader Field

I don’t think that anyone in Las Vegas every worried about new construction interfering with what’s already here. The pro-growth attitude has encouraged an almost unthinkable construction wave that’s caused problems–pollution, strains on the infrastructure, and possible overcrowding–but created jobs and growth. But it seems like every time someone in Atlantic City wants to do something more radical than adding a new row of slots the existing operators cry foul.

There’s a lot of upside in Atlantic City: low revenue taxes, workable infrastructure (though a quick, cheap public transportation option from the airport is needed), and a great geographic location. But the time-worn antics of existing operators–threatening and litigating potential rivals out of town–are standing in the way of progress.

Sure, Las Vegas tycoons snipe at each other. But they also have the confidence in themselves–and their employees–to believe that no matter what the competition puts up, they can top it. And the result has been good for Vegas.

With revenues continuing to fall (5.5% for May, and a little under 5% for the year to date), it’s clear that the current product isn’t going to get people to come back indefinitely. This decline should be a wake-up call to those running casinos in Atlantic City, and they need to either step up to the plate and create the kind of attractions that will lure visitors past the PA slot parlors or sell to someone who will.

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