Since 2014, three Atlantic City casinos have closed and the employment rate rose to about 15% which has led to Governor Christie’s decision to have the state take over Atlantic City. Because of this decision, the residents of Atlantic County have been handed a situation in which they feel powerless and that they have no control over what the future of Atlantic City will look like.
The state takeover has generated feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and mistrust within the Atlantic City community. Michael, my interviewee, said, “I don’t trust the state. I don’t trust the current administration to do the right thing. I feel like they’re more interested in the casino industry in North Jersey. I think they’ve decided to let this wither and die.” This statement is a reflection of a greater issue that has been seen time and time again in Atlantic City: the state isn’t invested in Atlantic City; they’re invested in the money generation in Atlantic City. The citizens believe that with the current environment, the state and casinos are willing to abandon the residents in search of greener pastures. The idea of building North Jersey casinos demonstrates that the state is more interested in creating revenue rather than the survival of Atlantic City.
The residents of Atlantic City have watched others come in as an effort to revive the city, but these investors have not done much to help diversify Atlantic City’s economy, so it’s no wonder that the citizens are skeptical of a state take over. Michael said, “I do not trust as a whole the state government to do the right thing in this area. I feel like they have written it off. It’s not strong enough politically, it’s not strong enough economically for them to wish us well, to do the right thing.” The people involved in the takeover are not citizens of Atlantic City, so they do not understand the city dynamics and the issues that Atlantic City citizens want addressed which is another reason for mistrust and skepticism. To the locals, it’s not about seeing another booming casino industry, it’s about better school systems, more jobs, and improved road conditions.
Years ago, Atlantic City was booming. Its people were employed by the casinos and there was hope for advancement and a positive aura surrounding the city. Now, there is a sense of hopelessness. The residents of Atlantic City are a collective of those who can’t afford to leave, cannot find a job elsewhere, cannot find post high school education options, and individuals with casino jobs who feel that, from seeing those around them, keep what they have because it can be so much worse. From what I have gathered, Atlantic City residents are not hopeless because of living in Atlantic City, but because there is nothing there for them.