Atlantic City casinos about to go bust, but baby don't need shoes at the Shore

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Filed under: Real Estate, Travel, Recession

Are the Atlantic City boardwalk casinos about to topple like a stack of dominoes? The three Trump properties -- the Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza, and Trump Marina -- are in trouble, on their way to bankruptcy or worse. And Resorts, the original boardwalk casino, is facing foreclosure.

Donald Kravitz, Getty Images
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New Jersey's first casino, Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, filed for foreclosure on February 17, 2009.

Celebrity Foreclosures

    New Jersey's first casino, Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, filed for foreclosure on February 17, 2009.

    Donald Kravitz, Getty Images

    DMX's Arizona home is under foreclose as the rapper is in jail on charges of animal cruelty, drug possession, and theft. He paid $600,000 for the house in 2003, which was put on the market by a local bank for $429,000. Police raided the property in August 2008 to find an illegal dog fighting kennel and graveyard of burned and maimed pitbulls.. DMX will be sentenced on January 30, 2009.

    Bryan Bedder, Getty Images

    Judy Vardon, who was featured in a 2004 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with her husband and blind, autistic son, may be facing foreclosure because the family cannot afford the mortgage payments on their home.

    Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

    'Extreme Makeover' House I
    Sadie Holmes of Altamonte Springs, Fla., does charity work from her house remodeled two years ago on ABC's 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.' Early October reports said Holmes could lose the house over a $29,000 county lien placed on the property after months of code violations racked up.

    Hilda M. Perez, Orlando Sentinel / MCT

    'Extreme Makeover' House II
    The Harper family home in Clayton County, Ga., which was rebuilt on an episode 'Extreme Makeover' in 2005, went into foreclosure this summer after the family used the house as collateral for a $450,000 loan and couldn't meet the payments.

    Michael Buckner, Getty Images

    American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino is not facing a bank foreclosure, but may nonetheless lose her $1.3 million Charlotte home when a company she owes money puts it up for auction in January.

    Leon Bennett, WireImage

    Damon Dash
    Foreclosure proceedings began in August against the hip-hop mogul over unpaid mortgages on two Manhattan apartments. Eastern Savings Bank says the Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder and his wife owed more than $7 million on the properties.

    Gary Gershoff, Wire Image

    Ed McMahon
    The former "Tonight Show" personality made "a confidential deal" in August to sell his Beverly Hills home after falling behind on payments.

    Matt Sayles, AP

    Scott Storch
    The hip-hop producer went into foreclosure in July on his $10 million Miami mansion, according to
    The Palm Beach Post. He also had his Ferrari Scaglietti and his prized motorcycle, a Bones Bike, repossessed.

    Wilfredo Lee, AP

    Vin Baker
    The former NBA player has also been stung by the wave of foreclosures sweeping the U.S. Baker's 9,300-square-foot Georgian brick colonial Durham, Conn., home -- which has six bedrooms, a two-lane bowling alley, basketball court, guest house and pool -- was auctioned for $2.5 million in July.

    Charles Krupa, AP

Resorts Atlantic City's current problem is dire, although it has been in bankruptcy before -- it was also previously owned by Donald Trump's group and also Merv Griffin. It is now in a court battle to hold onto its casino license as a group called Column Financial, which is its main lender, attempts to take it over in a foreclosure action.

What has happened since Resorts opened as the first casino outside of Las Vegas in 1978? The casino ushered in an era of gambling expansion that has still not stopped. It set the tone for the building of the strip that was to come, and for the last 31 years has stood in the middle of all the glitz and glamor.

You can blame a lot of things for the downfall of this quiet giant, not just the sour economy. Resorts, and the rest of the casinos in Atlantic City, are throw-backs to an era when the notion of a "strip" seemed to work: All you had to do was stack up a bunch of casinos next to each other and try to create a destination out of it.
But that never really worked in Atlantic City. As Vegas learned to expand and create family attractions, lavish shows and concerts and celebrity dining experiences, Atlantic City did not. While A.C. has the advantage of the beach, Vegas has the advantage of land mass. It could expand beyond one street and create a kind of suburban destination that could support a lot more clout as a destination. The strip in A.C. stayed right along the boardwalk, however, and the rest of the little town suffered greatly. Walk even 50 feet from the bright lights of the casino lane and you are in a desolated area full of Cash4Gold shops and peep show halls.

The only expansion that went on was to the "marina" area, not an easy commute from the boardwalk. That area is still building, which signals more than ever that the traditional strip is dead. People who come to gamble and play want a kind of suburban experience, which the boardwalk was never able to provide. Perhaps the big spenders don't want to look out onto the cigarette-butt littered beach while they dodge panhandlers.

My family is from the area, and we've gone through every iteration of Atlantic City. My mom went to the illustrious Atlantic City High School, which sounds like a joke to most people who don't know the area. I spent a lot of my childhood standing on the beach watching old hotel after old hotel being blown up for new construction. My brother worked at Resorts to help put himself through college. I worked at Bally's Park Place. My grandmother was a bookkeeper for the casino workers union, and she died holding onto many secrets. Let's just say that when we took her to see Hoffa, she came out white as a sheet.

As a long-time resident, I'm not so upset to see the downfall of these iconic casinos, even Resorts. Atlantic City has always been at its best as a family beach resort, where local people converged in the nice weather to enjoy the waves. The casinos, to me, were simply a place where you could stop for a bathroom break on boardwalk bike rides. I won't be sorry to see them go.

So go home, shoobies. All I need to keep me happy is a few fudge shops and some skee-ball arcades.
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