Family-friendly A.C.? Christie’s plan no sure bet
ATLANTIC CITY – During a weeklong family vacation in Ocean City last summer, John Wisniewski suggested an evening buffet at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
Under one condition:
“With blinders on,” the father of two sons, then 4 and 1, said, half-joking. “We literally went in and left right after we ate.
“There was concern over my boys seeing behavior appropriate for a casino, but not appropriate for a child,” said the 34-year old broker from Yardley. “A casino is an adult place.”
The Wisniewskis’ willingness to spend their vacation dollars in nearby Shore towns, but reluctance to take their children to Atlantic City casinos and stay overnight, underscores a tension that could make Gov. Christie’s plan to overhaul this gaming town into a family-friendly resort particularly challenging.
Outside Boardwalk Hall on July 21, the governor made no bones about whom he wanted to see more of on the beach, pacing the Boardwalk, sampling the restaurants. “We need to make Atlantic City into a destination resort and make it a family resort,” he said.
But his plan for a transformation that seems to call for somehow melding the sexy glitter of a Las Vegas with a socially and economically revitalized New Brunswick faces an uphill fight.
The Atlantic City of today does not have the look or feel of a family-style oceanside resort such as Ocean City, Md., or the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Visitors to Atlantic City rarely bring children. The only place to stay overnight here now is at a casino hotel or seedy motel, raising several questions:
Can a decaying city dogged by a reputation for being unclean and unsafe, with an outdated transportation system, inadequate airport, and potholed streets, make such a transition?
After more than three decades in the driver’s seat, what role can the city’s foundering casino industry possibly play in a new Atlantic City, and will that future entail having fewer casinos?
And what, besides gambling, can support Atlantic City for the nine months between summer crowds?
Historically, casinos and families don’t mix.
Las Vegas had family attractions as early as the 1950s, with places like the Last Frontier Village, modeled after an old Western town.