Atlantic City needs more than gambling, shopping

Revel, Atlantic City's newest casino, is falling short of revenue predictions. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff photographer)

‘If you’re satisfied with what’s going on in Atlantic City now, you need your head examined.” That’s what Gov. Christie said in February 2011, when he stood in the empty shell that was supposed to be the Revel casino. With an infusion of state cash through a tax break, the Revel is now open, but the satisfaction Christie talked about remains elusive.

Revel had its best month ever in August, raking in $20 million for the first time since opening in April. But that kept it in eighth place in revenue among Atlantic City casinos, far behind the Borgata’s $55 million — which again raises questions about Revel’s ability to ever become the savior of Atlantic City’s casino-hotel industry it was envisioned to be.

Christie’s plan to turn around Atlantic City included creation of a tourism district. But its emphasis is on what made Atlantic City famous — gambling.

For more than 80 years, Atlantic City hosted the Miss America pageant, but losing that event in 2004 didn’t kill it. It can learn to live without gambling as its principal industry, too, if the powers that be would shift their focus to the surf and sand that originally brought tourists to town.

Hard Rock International’s announcement Wednesday that it won’t build a new casino in Atlantic City suggests strongly that gambling must play less of a role in determining the town’s future.

Having created a tourist district, with supposedly enhanced public-safety measures,  Christie should go beyond encouraging people to lose their money gambling and bring a major family entertainment venue to Atlantic City. That would be satisfying.