For most of the past couple of years, the folks at the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority--the organization charged with marketing Atlantic City to the world at large--have seemingly played the role of dance band on the Titanic as they've tried to keep things happy and light in the face of the iceberg known as the current economic crisis that has flooded the casinos with red ink.
Yesterday, however, the ACCVA and the city it represents hit some nice jackpots thanks to three announcements from disparate quarters.
The first was issued by the Atlantic-10 collegiate basketball conference, which re-upped its deal with the city to play the league championship series at Boardwalk Hall. The playoffs will run through 2012, with a two-year option tacked on top.
Not that the extension was a huge surprise. After all, the other cities bidding for the event were Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Springfield, Mass. and Dayton, Ohio (!). AyCee may not be London, Paris or Tokyo, but neither is it Cincinnati, Springfield or Dayton.
On another front, Air Tran airlines yesterday said that on June 11, it will begin running four daily flights (two each way) between Atlantic City and Atlanta. This should create a decent amount of new business, especially among southern gamblers looking for an alternative to Mississippi's Gulf Coast gaming halls.
And while there's still a long, hard road ahead, the day was topped off by what may ultimately prove to be the most important action of all: The pledge by State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) to take the federal government to court over its blatantly unfair ban on sports betting.
Lesniak is absolutely right when he asks how it can be legal to wager on a game in Vegas (and three other states) but not anywhere else. This is not only wrong, but un-American. We're supposed to be a free people, but only a small percentage of us are free to bet on sports within the borders of our home states? That's just insane.
Sports betting is a huge missing piece of the Atlantic-City-as-a-first-class-destination puzzle. It's time to complete the picture!