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The Times They Are A-Changin’ in Atlantic City

And the Next Generation of “40 under 40” is a Part of the Narrative By: Robert Ambrose

Atlantic City is a centuries old story of hospitality centered in a landscape of hotels, boardwalk, beach and ocean. In the early years, employees played out their roles, as working-class members, raised families from the wages of their seasonal employment opportunities. Others found more indiscrete occupations in the prohibition era inspired, “alcohol rum-running network,” in the back bays; supplying the then, illegal gambling rooms of the city.

Personally, the memories of my childhood include the landscape of Atlantic City in the 1960s with its carnival attractions and warm sandy beaches. Years later in my late teens, I worked in the city’s marina district as a radio announcer. In the late 70s as old stately hotels were imploded into the city’s history, I began employment in the casino industry.

Even today as a university instructor in casino management, the city is still part of my classroom discussion. I must also state that I met my wife of 38 years in the city as well, less I be cast adrift in the ocean that borders the city.

Through the years, its employees have worn many uniforms, with none more famous than the casino dealers and floor people in the backdrop of the gambling/hotel landscape that began in 1978, with the opening of the first casino, then known as Resorts International.

It is important to see the casino industry in “real life” terms. An industry about people operating in a cyclical environment both from an employment, as well as a social model. It is an industry that is built on relationships with all the connections and needs of a community.

Image: L2R Robert Ambrose and Borgata Resort Casino Slot Director, Steve Ebner 

A regional casino footprint has long been responsible for side-bar, community-growth that proliferates in terms of housing, schools, retail,culinary and so much more. The presence of the industry brings a community together. As the amenities of Atlantic City grow and diversify in product, a new commerce and a secondary infrastructure is again growing to accommodate the needs of the year-round regional community. That community has chosen to make South Jersey not only their work place, but also their home. I recently attended The AC Weekly Top 40 under 40 awards ceremony at the Borgata in the Marina District of AC. I was there to honor a member of the Top 40, one of my former colleagues and friend Steve Ebner, Director of Slot Operations at the Borgata. These awards are presented through a collaboration between the Greater Atlantic City Junior Chamber of Commerce (The Jaycees) and Atlantic City Weekly. It is recognition of those professionals, under 40 years of age that have made their presence known in several industries throughout the Atlantic City, South Jersey region. The nominees are from a diverse local business community and represent a wide range of disciplines and job titles. This type of recognition program reflects, in part the sense of community the gaming industry has spawned for this region, beyond the centric casino industry itself. Besides gaming and hospitality professionals, the “Top 40 under 40” winners included the next generation of regional movers and shakers from all industries.

The sense of community and renewed regional growth was evidenced by the diversity of the non-gaming companies represented by the winners. This year’s winners included, Middle School Teachers, University Professors, Attorneys, Nursing Staff, Industrial Suppliers, Retail Associates, and members from religious communities. These are members of a social fabric that live in all communities.

These Top 40 people are the next group to take this region to the next level. Those of you that have read my commentaries in the past about Atlantic City, know that I never gave up on the city, even in its darkest hours.

What is the next chapter in the Atlantic City storybook?

As we look into 2018 and beyond we see a renaissance.

• The Hard Rock’s footprint is being created out of a past vision on the former site of the Taj Mahal. An investment of over $500 million by the Seminole-owned corporation

• Ocean Resort (former Revel) will also be opening this summer, recently announcing their entry into a franchise agreement with Hyatt Hotel Corp. The name recognition certainly helps to identify a property that will be competing with some very well-established brands in the AC market.

• MGM is sending a strong signal of commitment since it took complete ownership of the Borgata last year. Borgata continues its role as a premier property in the market.

• On line gaming in New Jersey has created a strong following in its few short years and continues to be a strong contributor to the gaming industry in NJ.

• Stockton University will soon open its 675,000-square-foot, $220 million Stockton Gateway Project. It will be the new headquarters for South Jersey Gas and include a campus for the university.

• Under development is an $81 million residential complex featuring 250 apartments in the inlet section of the city.

• As of this writing, the Sports Betting Issue remains with the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled for a summer ruling. Right now, SB is only legal in four states. Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.

• A recent successful auction by the Casino Development Authority (CRDA) of 92 properties will open up development opportunities as well as add to the tax rolls.

• And there are new signs of life springing up along the boardwalk and city streets in terms of retail and culinary.

• Recently, Atlantic County’s economic outlook got a rating boost from Standard and Poor’s Global Rating.

There is a new optimism in this region. A one step at a time initiative, not only by investors but the next generation of empowered employees. From the smallest independent new business start-up to the larger resort projects, the city and its regional landscape is again at a new beginning.

At the helm are the best of the next generation of employees focused with a commitment to make it better. The Top 40 winners are a “generational-niche” representing the thousands of workers that put in their time and effort to grow the community.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (B.Dylan)

Bob Ambrose

Gaming Consultant, Adjunct University Instructor