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Online gaming as lifeline

The Miss America pageant was invented in 1921 to extend Atlantic City’s summer season by a couple of weeks. In 2006, the Miss America pageant relocated … to Las Vegas.

In an effort to revitalize the town, New Jersey voters in 1976 approved casino gambling for Atlantic City. But a boom in Las Vegas and the construction of two Connecticut Indian casinos in the 1990s again put the beachfront town on the skids.

At this point, the dozen remaining Atlantic City casinos have experienced six straight years of falling gaming revenues in a market that’s lost more than 40 percent of its value. That’s why Wells Fargo Securities analyst Dennis Farrell Jr. sees a proposed online gaming bill now sitting on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk in Trenton as the “lifeline” for Atlantic City’s casinos.

The measure would allow those casinos to operate online gaming websites catering to state residents and customers wagering on computers located within New Jersey.

The problem is, Gov. Christie vetoed a similar online gaming bill last year and has not said whether he’ll sign this one. NorthJersey.com columnist John Brennan writes that Gov. Christie “doesn’t like this bill and doesn’t seem to think it will help at all.”

It’s tempting to take some joy in the struggles of a competitor. But while Atlantic City has never been in the same league as Las Vegas as a tourist mecca, its problems and opportunities are a microcosm of those that will surface here.

A better attitude is to watch New Jersey’s struggles to see what lessons we can learn, and even – dare we say it? – to watch for opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.

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