Inside Atlantic City’s boom and bust

Editor’s note: NJTV created a comprehensive series that looks into the history of Atlantic City, from its booming heydays through its decline and what hope the resort city has in reviving its fortunes for the future.

In 1976, Atlantic City, NJ — long an iconic seaside resort and home to a legendary boardwalk — became the first location outside Nevada to legalize casinos. But by 2014, four of Atlantic City’s twelve casinos had closed, costing nearly 8,000 people their jobs. Today, in this crucial election year, the political and economic future of the remaining casinos, those still working there and the city itself hang precariously in the balance.

Almost one year ago, a team from the “Chasing the Dream” reporting initiative in collaboration with NJTV began chronicling the struggle of that historic city through those most affected by the boom and the bust.

“Voices from Atlantic City” tells the story of the rise and fall of this gambling and entertainment mecca through the unique perspectives of local stakeholders – once prosperous card dealers, cocktail waitresses, construction workers and others — who lost their jobs or are hanging on to them by a thread, yet who still manage to have hope for the future.


In this first episode of “Voices from Atlantic City,” we learn about the heady optimism as Atlantic City pioneered the idea of using casino gaming to revitalize a depressed urban community.

​The 80s were the days of glitz and glamour, Donald Trump and disco. In this episode, we meet a cocktail waitress, a pit boss, a hair stylist and a drug dealer who tell us what life was like at a time when the opportunities seemed limitless.


By 2014, the fallout from the economic crash of 2008 and other factors resulted in the closing of four casinos, costing 8,000 people their jobs. In this episode of “Voices from Atlantic City,” we learn about the social, political, natural and economic factors that lead to the closings, and hear from the workers themselves about the day they learned the doors were closing.


In this episode, we explore the difficult road ahead for those affected by the closing of the casinos, as we follow former workers to a welfare-to-work program, a food bank, and a sheriff’s sale — today, with the casino closings, Atlantic County, New Jersey, now has the highest rate of home foreclosures in the country.


In this final chapter of our series, as the summer of 2016 approaches, workers at the Trump Taj Mahal attempt to save one of the last vestiges of the “good old days,” while others search for new directions for themselves and the city’s economy.

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