Atlantic City or Detroit: Which Epitomizes US Decline?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/14/2014 01:30:00 AM
They partied till they literally dropped.
Thousands of years into the future, when archaeologists sift through the ruins of the United States as they currently do with empires Aztec, Babylon, Carthage to Zulu, what will be their preferred excavation site for artifacts of once-unrivaled splendor reduced to absolute nothingness? Detroit is a prime candidate given its many imposing edifices long deserted. They even make massive photo essays about it. Motown, however, lacks the tabloid-grabbing bacchanalian excesses that I call "history porn": Babylon has been immortalized as the epitome of sinful existence in the Christian bible. The Emperor Caligula's mad perversion has been immortalized in bad soft porn films. Montezuma upped the ante with human sacrifices and cannibalism. Does modern-day America offer anything remotely as decadent?

Well, not quite, unless you consider "Ivan Kane's Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub" [?!] at the now-closed Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Speaking of which, its rate of decline certainly merits the Detroit comparison. If Detroit represents the death of world-leading American manufacturing, Atlantic City does the same for gambling services. It is fast disappearing at an astonishing rate:
How big a loser is Atlantic City? So big that Donald Trump sued to have his name removed from two casinos he no longer controls. He may have to amend the suit, since one of them, Trump Plaza plans to shut down next month. And it will have company. The two-year old, twice-bankrupt, $2.4 billion Revel casino will also close after its owners failed to find a buyer, company officials announced Tuesday. As the saying goes, you don’t throw good money after bad.

Revel’s shutdown brings [Atlantic City's] losing streak to four properties that announced a closing this year. The Atlantic Club was taken out earlier this year and Showboat, owned by Caesars Entertainment, locks down at the end of the month. Through June, revenues at the casinos are down 6.3%, continuing a long-term trend. The city’s casinos brought in $2.86 billion last year compared with $5.2 billion in 2006. 
Why is the boardwalk such a crap place nowadays? Precisely for the same reasons America as whole is: stagnant income = fewer gamblers with less money to gamble with. Add to this the proliferation of gaming industries in other states dreaming of cheap sources of revenue and it all adds up to...lots of red ink:
In Atlantic City, some of those displaced workers will be able to catch on at the city’s remaining seven casinos—who will no doubt see an uptick in business—but the losses and closures are indications that the runaway growth days of gaming are over. Any new casino built in the region—indeed, just about anywhere– will have to take business away from somebody else.

And that’s exactly what’s been happening to Atlantic City– a municipality that never blossomed into the revived seaside resort envisioned when New Jersey opened its first legalized casino in 1978. It has remained mostly a weekend gambling jaunt for many punters, and they have since found other places to play. Oddly enough, north of Atlantic City, from Asbury Park to Long Branch, Jersey’s casino-less shore towns have revitalized and grown, despite taking a hit from Hurricane Sandy.
For those interested in modern history, Atlantic City is still around to catch the few swirling motions left before America is fully flushed down the toilet of history. (I tired of the "dustbin of history" sometime ago. So sue me.)

Like America itself, Atlantic City was a good idea that's since lost its reason for existence.