I recall the day in May 1978 when a man driving a big shiny black Lincoln Continental pulled up to my aunt’s beach house in Longport, N.J. and asked on the sport how much she wanted for the vacant lot next to the house as he pulled out his checkbook.
About five miles north, Resorts International, the first Atlantic City casino, just opened in May and the speculators were out in droves looking for any and all kinds of investments.
The lot was one of the last open parcels in Longport, known as the “Irish Riviera” because the town was a summer oasis composed mostly of high-profile Philadelphia politicians, bar owners, and other business movers and shakers ( in that pecking order…), who conducted more deals and schemes on the beach than back in the city.
My straight-laced aunt snapped, “The property is not for sale,” and ushered the man back into his Lincoln. Back then, property values quickly jumped on the promise that Atlantic City would be the East Coast Las Vegas — a “sure” bet that drew investors and shady characters to the region for a piece of the action.
Today, as we know the Atlantic City casino heard is being thinned mostly because of more regional state competition. However, industry observers predict that once the weaker casino-hotels are gone, the remaining five to six properties will be stronger, and become a vibrant attraction again to East Coast gamblers and vacationers.
Atlantic City no doubt is going through some tough times, but the region as a whole is doing OK and the long-term vitality for growth looks good — beach houses at many neighboring resorts still command multi-million dollar price tags. So as we gear up for our LCT-NLA Show East, Oct. 19-21, our host hotel-casino, Caesars, is in good shape for the long-haul and in top form ready to welcome operators to have a great time, learn a lot, gamble a little — and become part of the rebirth of the city again.
By the way, the lot was eventually sold to a developer for serious cash. My aunt knew how to play her cards…
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