Atlantic City Mayor Wants Casino Town to Diversify, Reduce Dependency on Gaming

Posted on: March 1, 2021, 09:53h. 

Last updated on: March 1, 2021, 11:49h.

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. hopes the former Trump Plaza site will be developed into a mixed-used property, not another casino.

Atlantic City Trump Plaza Marty Small
The implosion of Trump Plaza is seen here in February of 2021. Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small supports a mixed-use development taking its place. (Image: Associated Press)

The Boardwalk casino resort developed and once owned by former President Donald Trump came tumbling down last month. The property is a prime location in the city’s center, as it’s positioned at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway where the main artery brings in travelers to the gambling mecca.

The land that housed the original 39-story Trump Plaza hotel tower from 1984 until February 2021 sits between Jim Wheelan Boardwalk Hall convention center and Caesars Atlantic City.

Small said the Trump Plaza site will be cleaned and reduced to ground level by this summer. So, what’s next for the site?

If I had it my way, it will be some mixed-use development with some form of family entertainment,” Small told KYW Newsradio over the weekend.

“It’s a lot of space, a lot of creativity that can be done. I know a lot of developers are going to be more interested now that it’s open land versus construction,” the mayor added.

Its future, however, is largely up to Carl Icahn, the billionaire who owns the Trump Plaza complex.

Atlantic City Overhaul

Prior to the pandemic, Atlantic City’s nine casinos were faring well. Gross operating profits in 2019 totaled $613 million, a 5.8 percent increase in 2018.

All nine casinos reported being profitable prior to COVID-19. The financial performances seemed to show that Atlantic City was capable of supporting nine casinos and that the gaming industry had reached some sense of stability.

COVID-19, of course, changed everything. Through nine months of 2020 gross operating profits plunged 86 percent. The nine casinos saw their profits go from $484.6 million through three quarters in 2019, down to $68.1 million in the same period in 2020.

Many in Atlantic City, including Small, believe new lures must be offered to bring travelers back to the beachfront town.

“We have to diversify our offers,” the mayor declared. “We can’t be dependent on casino gaming anymore.

We’re always going to be a casino town, don’t get that wrong. But it’s time to take a shift to make a difference from every other area near and far that now has casinos,” the mayor stated.

Bart Blatstein, the owner of the Showboat, a hotel-only Boardwalk property, agrees. He’s received approval and tax credits from the state and city to move forward with a $100 million indoor water park.

“It’s abundantly clear that Atlantic City is lacking in family destinations,” Blatstein said last year. “There’s not enough for them to do here. This [waterpark] will create Atlantic City’s first year-round family resort.”

Philadelphia’s Growing Casino Landscape 

Atlantic City has long relied on traffic from Philadelphia, which is about an hour’s drive. But residents in the Pennsylvania city no longer have to travel to Atlantic City to find a casino.

The Philly region is now home to five casinos, the most recent opening just last month in the Stadium District. Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia is a $700 million integrated casino resort that features a 200-room hotel and a casino floor with 2,000 slot machines, 120 table games, and FanDuel Sportsbook.