Lessons From the Fall of Atlantic City – Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I look at the death of my former workplace, the Trump Taj Mahal:

Even without the current Republican presidential candidate’s name on the building’s crest, the Taj is as perfect a symbol of Atlantic City’s quick decline as can be imagined. Opened in 1990 as the city’s largest, it kept its place on top of the casino win pile until the 2003 opening of the Borgata. The stilled casino’s minarets and gilded domes now give the sense of a dying empire.

Read more: Lessons From the Fall of Atlantic City – Vegas Seven

This was difficult to write.

Donald Trump, the Taj, & Atlantic City in The Washington Post

I’ve been asked what I think about the Taj closing. If you didn’t know, I worked there for about 3 years (1994/95, 1998, 2000) so this one literally hit close to home for me. I had the chance to write about it for the Washington Post’s Post Everything, so I did:

Behind the campaign-related headlines, though, the end of the Taj — a tragedy to its nearly 3,000 employees and an economic drag on an already struggling resort town — underscores the mistakes that too many, including Trump, have made in Atlantic City. Even when the city was the hottest gambling destination in the world, it never built a sustainable path from its past to a prosperous future. Trying to base your economy on gambling alone, it turns out, is a lot like gambling itself: The odds, long term, are….

Read more: Donald Trump wasn’t the only one who made a bad bet on Atlantic City – The Washington Post

I wrote this partially in response to a lot of media inquiries I’ve gotten. I’ve spoken to several reporters who wanted to know more about the Taj, but they usually were just interested in me saying negative things about Trump and the whole story. Several of them started from the idea that Trump was completely inept and hired inept people from the start. Mentioning that Dennis Gomes–president of the Taj when I started there–is as highly respected as anyone in the business didn’t fit that narrative. And that’s just one of many.

As I suggest, there’s a whole lot more blame to go around. I feel like I could have written a lot more on this, but as always there are space constraints.

On a personal note, I will say that my co-workers at the Taj helped me through some very difficult times, and I’m inestimably proud to have been part of that team.


bp_150The day has arrived: Boardwalk Playground, my latest book, is now available for purchase via Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This book started as a series of columns for Casino Connection magazine, and I have edited, updated, and supplemented those original columns to bring the story up to date. Unlike my earlier books, this one isn’t just about gambling or casinos–there are 124 years of non-casino history in Atlantic City that take up most of the book.

You can visit the Boardwalk Playground site to read more about the book, or just head over to Amazon, which will have more info and, hopefully soon, some customer reviews.

The book is also available for Kindle, and will be on other ebook platforms (iBook, Nook, Kobo) in a few months. This time, I’m trying out the Kindle Select program, which requires that the ebook be exclusive to Kindle. Once the Kindle version is well established, I will make it available on other platforms.

I’d like to thank everyone who got the book this far, particularly my Kickstarter backers. Thank you for helping me do what I love.

Thank you for supporting BOARDWALK PLAYGROUND

After 28 days, my Kickstarter campaign to publish Boardwalk Playground has wrapped up. Thanks to the generosity and support of 58 backers, I raised the funds I needed to cover the production costs of my next book.

What’s next? I have had the book proofread, and have laid out the photos. Right now it is being indexed while I do another round of proofing. If things go according to plan, I will be able to upload a print-ready file within 3 weeks, so that I will be able to meet my October publication date. There should be plenty of books available at VIMFP on October 17.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me get this far. I wish I had the words to express just how much your support means to me right now–it means a lot.

New Book Coming & You Can Help!

A real book!

I have some exciting news to share: I have a new book coming out, and you can be a part of it.

If you’re familiar with my work, you may have seen my articles about Atlantic City history in Casino Connection magazine. Each month (for about 8 years), I wrote about an aspect of that city’s history—maybe the infamous Nucky Johnson, classic hotels like the Traymore and Marlborough-Blenheim, or casinos like the Tropicana and Playboy. That column gave me a chance to do some solid research on my hometown and, better yet, share it with readers.

This summer, with the support of Casino Connection publisher Roger Gros, I compiled my existing columns, updated them, and added several more. The result is one hundred stories about Atlantic City that together tell the story of the World’s Playground, from its 1854 founding right up to this summer. At a time when the city is at a crossroads, I thought everyone would be better off if they could better appreciate the city’s past.

The book is called Boardwalk Playground: The Making, Unmaking, & Remaking of Atlantic City, with a subtitle of “How the people of Atlantic City built a seaside paradise, lost it, rebuilt a casino town, mostly lost it, and kept on dreaming.”

So what does this have to do with you? First, I hope that you’ll enjoy reading the book once it is out. Second, I need a little help to get it published. I have all of the writing and layout work done, and am currently in need of professional proofreading and indexing. To defray the costs of both, I have launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise the money I need to pay professionals to do their best work.

I had such a great experience with my last book, Grandissimo, in part because of the Kickstarter campaign that got it off the ground, that I had to go this route again. My thanks again to everyone who made that a success.

If you’d like to visit check out the campaign—which is only running a short time—and see a video, visit my Boardwalk Playground Kickstarter page. If you’d like to learn more about the book and read a few excerpts, visit the Boardwalk Playground website. Thank you!

Support Boardwalk Playground

What Macau Can Learn from Las Vegas | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt , I consider how Las Vegas might just have a few lessons for Macau after all:

Once those architects began planning resorts, however, it became apparent that Asia was not Las Vegas, and that what worked so well here for the previous generation—large slot parlors with table-gaming cores—was not at all adaptable to conditions on the ground in China. So American operators—Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International—did the adapting, emphasizing baccarat while adjusting to a market where VIP play dwarfed the mass market.

via What Macau Can Learn from Las Vegas | Vegas Seven

There’s a line between trying to replicate what works in Las Vegas just because it works in Las Vegas and figuring out how to make things that worked in Las Vegas work in other areas. I think we are seeing companies navigating that line.

What Atlantic City Needs to Learn From Las Vegas | Vegas Seven

As an Atlantic  City native and an observer of the casino scene, I’ve gotten asked my opinion on what’s happening there. I’m glad to have the chance to write a column that summarizes how I feel. It’s a bit of a history lesson and a cautionary tale:

Atlantic City casinos prospered in those years because they were the only game not just in town, but in the entire eastern half of the country. Within five years of New Jersey voters approving gaming, nine hotel-casinos were in operation, drawing 19 million visitors to the formerly moribund seaside resort, employing 30,000 people, and pulling in more than $1 billion a year.

via What Atlantic City Needs to Learn From Las Vegas | Vegas Seven

I’ll probably do some more writing about Atlantic City–well, that’s as sure a bet as there is–but this is how I feel about it right now.

World War One and Atlantic City

In response to this photo and Bat-Signal request for more info, I wanted to post a link to an Atlantic City history column I’d written for Casino Connection a few (nine) years back. Turns out that it’s one of the 10 or so AC history pieces not in the Casino Connection archives.

Looking at the sixty or so articles I wrote for Casino Connection over the years, I think I have the core of a pretty good book. But some articles will need some revision, both for content and style.

So here is the entire article, which has the answer to the original question, “What is this?”…after the jump.

Continue reading

Atlantic City’s Last Great Hope? in Vegas Seven

I’ve got something besides today’s Green Felt Journal in today’s Vegas Seven: a look at Revel, Atlantic City’s latest casino:

Revel, Atlantic City’s first new casino in nearly a decade, has been called “Cosmopolitan East,” for its similarities, real and supposed to the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Like the Cosmo, it’s put a great deal of emphasis on its non-gaming amenities, and, like the Cosmo, it’s struggled on the casino floor. In June, Revel’s win per slot per day—a valuable metric of casino performance—was the lowest in the city.

via Atlantic City’s Last Great Hope? | Vegas Seven.

This week’s news about Revel seeking more credit only underlines the point that the casino is underperforming.

My Boardwalk Homecoming in Vegas Seven

I’ve got a very special Green Felt Journal out in today’s Vegas Seven. No, it’s not like a “very special episode” of Diff’rent Strokes or The Fact of Life that’s going to pontificate on a current social issue. Instead, I’m talking about the usual stuff I talk about in that space–gambling, casinos, and tourism–but in a much more personal way than I usually do. Here’s a snippet:

The Atlantic City I left was on the other side of history: a city left for dead, one that maybe, someday, might come back. Like Las Vegas, it blew up its past; some of my earliest memories were the implosions of the grand Boardwalk hotels. But this wasn’t replacing the Dunes with Bellagio. Old Atlantic City—the Traymore, the Marlborough-Blenheim, Million Dollar Pier—hadn’t been improved upon; gold had been replaced with concrete and red neon, when anything was built at all. Unlike Las Vegas, you never could shake the sense that you were one or two generations from the golden age.

via A Boardwalk Homecoming | Vegas Seven.

I usually don’t get that autobiographical, because there’s usually not that much of a need for me to put myself into the story. After all, it’s usually pretty straight-forward stuff–a personality profile, a sketch of a current issue–that calls for, at most, some editorial comment, but not much personal reflection.

So this is a different kind of writing for me, but for this story, it’s a path that I had to take. If it succeeds, it’s largely due to the unstinting support and fantastic sounding board of my editor, Greg Blake Miller.

On a more (literally) pedestrian note, I’ve also got some thoughts on Revel over on Two Way Hard Three. I liked the place, quite a bit, but there were a few things that left me scratching my head.