Atlantic City Dumps Miss America, Bets on Esports to Grow Tourism

Posted on: December 19, 2018, 10:22h. 

Last updated on: December 19, 2018, 10:22h.

Atlantic City and the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) have decided to end an annual subsidy that has been afforded to organizers of the Miss America Organization (MAO) over the last three years.

Atlantic City Miss America CRDA
Matthew Doherty and the CRDA will no longer support the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. (Image: AP/Erin Grugan/Press of Atlantic City/

The CRDA has given $12 million to the MAO since 2015. But amid declining attendance and interest, and a public backlash against the organization’s former CEO and board members for making disparaging remarks about former contestants and winners, Atlantic City officials have decided not to renew the contract.

A recent review by the New Jersey Office of the State Auditor found that the CRDA did not always ensure an effective and efficient use of its funds.”

The CRDA was formed in 1984 to facilitate economic and community development in Atlantic City. Its money comes from a $5 per night hotel fee and $3 per day parking charge collected by casinos.

Esports Gamble

During the CRDA’s Tuesday budget meeting, the agency allocated $700,000 to promote events and tournaments in the emerging esports industry. The money will be awarded to organizers of such competitive video gaming competitions at Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Convention Center.

It may sound odd to many of us, but thousands of people sit around and watch people play video games,” CRDA Executive Director Matthew Doherty explained. “This may be the future of spectator sports.”

It’s not the first time Atlantic City has tested the esports water.

The nongaming Showboat, which is now being partially converted apartment units, attempted to hold a millennial-focused weekend expo series in 2017 that was heavily focused on video gaming. But after just two weekends, the series was abruptly canned due to poor attendance.

Continent 8, a technology company headquartered in the UK, is in the process of building a $5 million data center at the Convention Center to support the data-intensive esports industry. Continent 8 is leasing the space from the CRDA, and will offer esports organizers a turnkey data framework for large tournaments.

Miss America Suitor

Atlantic City officials might be breaking up with Miss America, but Ocean Resort owner Bruce Deifik is ready to step in.

The casino owner, who was recently named in a lawsuit and charged by a former business partner of making female workers feel uncomfortable, says his Ovation Hall would be a perfect new home for the pageant. Miss America has already issued requests for proposals in hopes of landing another sweetheart deal.

While Deifik says he won’t be paying MAO millions of dollars to bring the show to Ocean Resort, he would be willing to reach an agreement to have the 100th anniversary competition at the 5,700-seat venue.

Miss America originated in Atlantic City in 1920. It moved to Las Vegas in 2006 but returned to New Jersey in 2013. Under new CEO Gretchen Carlson’s leadership, the pageant decided to do away with the swimsuit component.