Despite living so close to “the city that’s always turned on,” the first time I ever sat in a casino and played a table game came after hopping on a plane and flying across the country to Las Vegas. While in town for a family friend’s wedding, I decided to try my luck at roulette. How hard could it be? I plopped down my chips and the next thing I know, I’m $600 richer. It was quite the rush. Too nervous to press my luck, I cashed out and walked away from the game immediately.
The next evening I returned to the roulette wheel, this time at another casino across the strip, and placed bet after bet. Loss. Loss. Loss. Loss. In a matter of about 15 minutes, my winnings from the night prior had vanished. What did I do? Put down another $100 bet, of course. Loss. I guess that’s what they really mean when they say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I won money in Vegas and it stayed there too.
Although I learned that lesson at an early age, it never deterred me from regularly visiting Atlantic City. Sure, I gamble here and there, but I live by the motto of “I don’t make it that fast to lose it that fast.” I’m small-time at best. But A.C. offers so much more than gaming. Some of my finest meals have come in Atlantic City, whether inside one of the casinos or at my favorite go-to spot, Chef Vola’s. I’ve seen countless comedy shows and concerts that provided lasting memories. We even did a fashion shoot for the magazine with some of the 76ers dancers a couple of years back. (Tough gig, I know.)
My point is I’ve always found reasons to go to A.C., and few of them ever had to do with losing my shirt playing craps. Now, there’s no doubt that A.C. is struggling. Casinos on the Boardwalk just don’t close because they want to. But what is encouraging are the steps the city is taking to rebrand itself in hopes of becoming a new type of resort destination. On page 62, we talk with the local leaders who are working to usher in a new era for A.C. by committing themselves to making a change.
Atlantic City will never be like it was in the past, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. It needs to evolve and, if done right, today’s troubles will have served as an overdue wakeup call. I’d bet the house on it—that is, if I was a gambling man.
Peter J. Proko
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 November, 2014).
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