The will city"s continuing to be casinos are open up after a months-long shutdown in 2020, however most of the largely-seasonal businesses are struggling come survive


In October, 2016, ns took my mommy to Atlantic City for her birthday. She enjoys feeding her money right into slot machines; I like to exchange mine because that dusty souvenirs. Since the early on 1800s, the city, located on a obstacle island off the shore of new Jersey, has readily available ample methods to perform both. Pre-pandemic, that felt novel to check out a ghost city or will in that is off-season. Post-apocalyptic landscapes are frequently most noteworthy not for what remains, yet for what is missing: the people.

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Places become abandoned likewise to how most living points die: slowly, and then all of sudden all at once. Atlantic City, at the very least as a destination, has actually been dying for decades. When we visited five years ago, you could virtually hear the fatality rattle exterior of the trump card Taj Mahal, where workers had been on strike since July. The casino and hotel, billed as the “eighth wonder that the world” once it opened in the spring of 1990, made its debut choose most big dreams in the critical two years of 20th-century corporate America: through a laser and fireworks display.

The Taj Mahal—built at a expense of virtually a billion dollars—had 120,000 square feet of gaming room and 2,010 guest rooms. Housed in ~ the gilded bulb domes to be multiple restaurants, gift shops, display rooms, and the nation’s first casino strip club. However after a couple of decades of hosting high (and low) rollers, the Taj Mahal close up door its gold-trimmed doors in October the 2016. It has since reopened together the hard Rock Hotel and Casino, but an additional former Trump residential or commercial property was not as lucky.

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A desolate stretch just off the boardwalk. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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The boardwalk entrance to Caesar’s. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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A discarded confront mask on the boardwalk. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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Businesses are still struggling to entice tourists after ~ a months-long shutdown. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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Blank billboards ~ above the beach. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

On February 17, 2021, a mile far on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, a regulated demolition using almost 3,000 pole of dynamite carried down the 34-story tower of what was as soon as the trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.

Stark contrasts

People spring to roll the dice used to have limited options: las Vegas in the west, Atlantic City in the east, and also Biloxi in between. Together gambling ended up being legal in an ext and an ext states, towns built about games of chance have actually seen their luck run out. Las Vegas might be running on a mix of brand-new construction and also nostalgia, yet the fumes room still potent. Biloxi is donate by the mighty Mississippi and also the relative novelty the the riverboat. After its casinos, Atlantic City’s main draw has always been that beach and boardwalk, but increasingly, there are better places because that fans of one of two people up and down the eastern Coast.

Then, a pandemic hit. In mid-March, 2020, brand-new Jersey branch Phil Murphy bespeak the casinos closeup of the door indefinitely because of COVID-19. The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa was the city’s last to reopen in July, 2020. In addition to the difficult Rock, gamblers wishing come test their luck have the right to still carry out so at Caesar’s, Bally’s, Showboat, and a grasp of other places where the artificially bright lamp have practically always seemed to be burn on borrowed time.

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The faded facade that the former Trump Plaza and Casino. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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A debris pile nearly 80 feet high is every that’s left that the trump card Plaza tower. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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Remnants of trump Plaza. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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A trumped Plaza parking garage. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan
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Trump distanced himself from his failing casinos in the early on 2000s. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

Casinos are a confluence of virtually everything that has felt forbidden because that months: They room gathering areas for huge groups that strangers eating, drinking, smoking, and also shouting (often every at the exact same time) in near proximity to one another. Lock are deliberately dark and also confusing; also if you might find a window, it likely wouldn’t open. There space seemingly unlimited ways to get in a casino floor and also only a handful of ways to exit. The intricately patterned carpets can disorient even the smartest homing pigeon.

Shortly after ns walked through the doors that the desolate Taj Mahal, simply days prior to they closed for good, ns spent number of minutes watching a bird furiously flapping amidst the reflective ceilings and recessed lighting. We were both desperately in search of a means out; i eventually found one and I can only hope the bird did too. The concept of “quitting while you’re ahead” is constantly easier claimed than done—places prefer Atlantic City room designed to do it nearly impossible.

Face masks displayed outside the a boardwalk souvenir shop. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

I love Atlantic City

Today, it’s difficult to phone call which businesses space closed just for the season or indefinitely, and also barely any kind of classic souvenir shops remain. Challenge masks are an ext prevalent than flip-flops, billboards room blank, and Psychic Lisa’s mail is piling up beneath her crystal ball. Salt water taffy purveyors James’ Original and Fralinger’s are both closed once I visit. James’ taffy might still it is in “cut to fit the mouth” elsewhere, however an “Available” sign hangs above the fancy blue-and-gold marquee at the brand’s boardwalk location.

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At Fralinger’s, a mannequin wearing a chef’s hat and also facemask stands for sure behind glass gilded with letters advertising “sea foam fudge” and also “fine chocolates.” His arms space extended and also he silently provides passersby a blue-and-white swirled confection; also if there were any kind of takers, yes sir no means to accept the free sample. I peer right into the dark shop lined v bins that treats and it’s unclear whether time stopped in the summer the 1820 or 2020.