Efforts to clean up Atlantic City are on a roll, a state Assembly panel said this week after examining improvements to public safety, cleanliness and economic development in the city’s tourist district.
“Our key audience — fun seekers — is starting to associate Atlantic City with more amenities,” said Jeff Guaracino, chief strategy officer with the Atlantic City Alliance, the casino-funded marketing arm of the oceanfront resort.
The turnaround comes just three months after the “DO AC” campaign was launched and more than a year after Gov. Chris Christie’s administration assumed a plan to help the besieged city.
“The Atlantic City Alliance is in the early phase of re-educating regional markets that Atlantic City is about much more than gaming,” Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton College, said. “Ironically, the more casino gaming spreads like weeds, the more Atlantic City stands out as a unique destination because of its concentration of entertainment amenities and seaside location.
Still, Atlantic City faces substantial challenges as its homicide rate climbs; there have been 15 murders so far this year, more than 2011’s total. Getting to the oceanfront casinos means traveling through residential areas strife with poverty.
“The key strategic challenge that remains is enhancing Atlantic City’s value as an entertainment destination in the dense and relatively high net worth mid-Atlantic market,” Posner said. “In my opinion, continued focus on public relations, targeted advertising and image building will bear fruit.”
Since 2006, Atlantic City has lost six million visitors annually. For nearly 30 years, until 2007, gambling revenue increased every year in the oceanfront town known as the Gambling Capital of the East; a title now challenged by Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
"If we want to get people to visit, we need to continue to do all we can do to create an enjoyable experience," John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, said. "We've been meeting with some success in a tough environment. This has been a tough four to five years for the nation. I like to think we're well-positioned."