Gambling: Where Is the Payoff?

From Phyllis Schlafly:

For those who promote legalized gambling as a means of economic development or revitalization, or as a painless way to pay for public schools, the recent news from Atlantic City, New Jersey, is sobering.

Dominated by its famous boardwalk, the beach resort is familiar to Americans from the popular game of Monopoly, the Miss America pageant and the Democratic Convention that nominated Lyndon B. Johnson for president. Almost 40 years ago, when casino gambling was prohibited by every state except Nevada, New Jersey voters succumbed to a slick campaign that promised to remake the fading resort into Las Vegas East.

For awhile it seemed to work, as people from all over the Northeast rode buses to Atlantic City to sit for hours in front of mesmerizing slot machines. But casino revenues have fallen steadily to where they were 25 years ago, and this year four of Atlantic City’s 11 casinos closed their doors, with a fifth expected to follow soon.

The closed casinos have eliminated 8,000 jobs in a city whose unemployment rate was already twice the national average, and the assessed value of the unoccupied properties will have to be sharply reduced. And no property was bigger or fell harder than the gargantuan Revel Casino Hotel, which was custom designed for high rollers who never showed up.

What can be done with a 57-story, hermetically sealed glass building with 1,400 hotel rooms and 10 swimming pools occupying 20 acres on the boardwalk? When it filed for bankruptcy a second time last month, the owners declared the value of the property was worth less than 20 percent of what it cost, telling the bankruptcy judge that the casino is “a melting ice cube.”

The $2.4 billion it cost to construct that now-useless “glass elephant” was greater than the taxes New Jersey collected from all the other casinos in the past eight years. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had the chance to pull the plug on the project four years ago, but instead he doubled down, committing $261 million of state funds to see it through to completion.

Atlantic City parallels what happened in Alton, Illinois, where my husband and I lived for 44 years raising our six children. A riverboat casino was touted as the new “services” economy to replace the manufacturing plants that once supported over 10,000 families there.

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