Miss America Leaving Atlantic City, Crowns Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut as Next Host

Posted on: July 24, 2019, 07:53h. 

Last updated on: July 24, 2019, 07:53h.

The Miss America Organization (MAO) announced this week that it’s once again departing Atlantic City, the town where the pageant began 98 years ago in 1921.

Miss America Atlantic City casino
Miss America is moving north to Connecticut for its 2020 edition. (Image: Noah Murray/AP)

The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) decided to end its annual subsidy for Miss America last December. The MAO received more than $20 million over the last six years in public funds to host the event in the beachfront gaming hub, as well as thousands of free or discounted hotel rooms and meals.

As a result, the competition says it’s leaving one casino town for another, and will make the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, its home for the 2020 Miss America Competition. The event will be telecast live on NBC on December 19.

It’s the second time Miss America skipped town out of Atlantic City. The event was held in Las Vegas for eight years from 2006 through 2013.

Casino Funds

Miss America has been the subject of much controversy in recent years. In late 2017, an article in the HuffPost revealed emails sent by then-MAO CEO Sam Haskell that were derogatory towards former pageant winners, specifically Mallory Hagan and Katherine Shindle. Haskell’s comments used expletive name-calling and other unprofessional words when describing the former Miss Americas.

Interest in television ratings had already been on the decline, and the scandal only further hurt the pageant’s appeal. The CRDA itself was also engulfed in controversy after the New Jersey Office of the State Auditor found that the agency “did not always ensure an effective and efficient use of its funds.”

The CRDA is funded through a $5 per night hotel fee and $3 per day parking charge collected by the town’s casino resorts. Critics said the millions of dollars in subsidies given to Miss America no longer delivers a substantial economic return.

Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) said the CRDA “needs to seriously rethink and prioritize how it spends its money.” It did, and decided to end the Miss America handouts.

Locals React

The CRDA is instead allocating money to bring and promote esports to Atlantic City. The agency has signed off on $700,000 to assist in esports tournaments. A $5 million data center is also being installed at the Convention Center to support the data-intensive esports play.

Not everyone is on board. Some locals believe Miss America is part of Atlantic City’s DNA, and funds should have continued to be reserved for the pageant.

I’m very disappointed,” former Miss America and Ventnor resident Suzette Charles told the Press of Atlantic City. “It’s a part of Atlantic City’s history and means so much to the community.”

Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam said it’s “sad when an era such as Miss America comes to an end,” but added “the only constant we have is change.”

MAO put out a request for proposals to numerous cities. The organization didn’t reveal what subsidies or incentives Mohegan Sun offered, nor whether the partnership is a one-off or multiyear arrangement.