In full costume, AC mayor lays out ‘transformational’ vision for resort town

Matthew Fazelpoor//January 23, 2023//

In full costume, AC mayor lays out ‘transformational’ vision for resort town

Matthew Fazelpoor//January 23, 2023//

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Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small dons a Transformers costume to deliver his State of the City address in January 2023.
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small dons a Transformers costume to deliver his State of the City address. – CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY/FACEBOOK


“We’re here to change and control the narrative about what people say about Atlantic City,” Mayor Marty Small Sr. said during his State of the City Address earlier this month. The theme of that speech – delivered at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino during the Metropolitan Business & Citizens Association 2023 Kick-Off event – was “The Transformation Begins.”

To drive that point home, Small took the stage dressed in a Transformers costume.

“We’ve been doing amazing things in the great City of Atlantic City, but we want to take that to another level in 2023,” the mayor said.

Small set out a series of transformations he hopes will set the tone for Atlantic City in 2023, including changing the way the city provides taxpayer relief, polices, cleans, cares for youth and seniors, attracts families and controls the narrative about the city.

On the heels of Small’s speech, Atlantic City received some welcome news from the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The agency’s December report showed robust brick-and-mortar gaming numbers of $215.6 million, a key indicator of in-person activity at the casinos.


“Even up against strong seasonal and economic headwinds, brick-and-mortar gaming revenues for December 2022 outperformed both December 2021 ($211.82 million) and December 2019 ($208.55 million) to deliver the strongest December brick-and-mortar revenue returns in 10 years,” said Jane Bokunewicz, faculty director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism at the Stockton University School of Business, who analyzed the report. “Despite the lower returns in recent months, strong performance early in the year along with a strong December showing set up 2022 year-end, total brick-and-mortar revenues to exceed both year-end 2021 ($2.55 billion) and year-end 2019 ($2.69 billion).”

“Atlantic City’s casino hotels and their employees have been focused on providing exciting amenities and unique in-person experiences to welcome back visitors,” said New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis. “Year-end results show these efforts are paying off. Casino win not only surpassed pre-pandemic levels, it reached its highest figure in nine years.”

“In 2022, the Atlantic City casino industry continued to face challenges, including the lingering effects from the pandemic, a difficult economy, and high inflation,” Mark Giannantonio, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ), said following the release of those December figures. “As we move into a new year, Atlantic City casinos are committed to providing the best possible experience for our customers, which includes making significant investments that will continue to solidify Atlantic City’s position as a world-class resort destination with top-notch dining, shopping and entertainment offerings.”

Giannantonio, who is also the president and CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel, noted that the casino industry continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the city and community through exciting economic development projects. State and local officials have placed a big bet on development in an effort to diversify the resort city’s offerings and revenue streams.

Bally recently unveiled more than $100 million in renovations, including new rooms, a lobby, restaurants, a 360-degree rotating bar, an indoor/outdoor beer garden and new gaming product. – BALLY’S CORPORATION

The CANJ laid out some of several projects and initiatives:

  • Bally recently unveiled more than $100 million in renovations, including new rooms, a lobby, restaurants, a 360-degree rotating bar, an indoor/outdoor beer garden and new gaming product
  • Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa celebrated the multimillion-dollar enhancements of Old Homestead Steakhouse and Miralto, Borgata’s High Limit Slot Lounge, as well as 20th Anniversary celebrations planned for 2023
  • Caesar’s Entertainment Atlantic City Resorts invested in new restaurants, hotel rooms and entertainment at Caesar’s Atlantic City, Tropicana Atlantic City and Harrah’s Atlantic City as part of a $400 million capital investment program
  • Golden Nugget Atlantic City planned a multimillion-dollar remodeling project, redesigning its rooms and suites in addition to back-of-the-house infrastructure improvements
  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will invest more than $30 million in live entertainment this year to cement itself as the market leader in headliner entertainment
  • Ocean Casino Resort announced the investment of $15 million to redesign an additional seven hotel floors, as well as further investing capital into its hospitality and food and beverage offerings
  • Resorts Casino Hotel will celebrate its 45th anniversary this Memorial Day Weekend, along with new entertainment options and major capital improvements in the hotel, gaming operations and technology

CANJ said that the casinos have collectively invested more than $1 billion into the market over the last few years to create world class attractions, generate additional employment opportunities and attract more visitors.

“Our industry is facing strong economic headwinds, like most businesses across America, as we continue to experience uncertain days ahead,” said Giannantonio. “With that in mind, our ongoing partnership with the local and state officials to further advance the economic growth of Atlantic City is vital to the long-term success and viability of our historic seaside resort.”

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr.
In his recent State of the City Address, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr., shown at another event in September 2022, noted that transforming the way the city attracts families is paramount to achieving this vision. – CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY

In his speech, Small noted that transforming the way the city attracts families is paramount to achieving this vision. He describes Showboat Hotel’s Island Waterpark, which opens this summer, as a “gamechanger.” The waterpark will feature water slides, ziplines, a treehouse, lazy river, wave pool and a nightclub.

As part of an effort to attract more meetings and conventions, Meet AC, Atlantic City’s destination meetings and events marketing organization, recently rebranded itself as Visit Atlantic City, complete with a new website.

“As Atlantic City is going through a major reinvestment to create a safer, culturally rich and sustainable community, the time was ripe for us to review our branding and reinvest in ourselves,” said Larry Sieg, president and CEO of Visit Atlantic City. “While our primary focus remains on bringing meetings and events to the destination, our new name broadens the enticement to choose us. In addition to having one of the largest convention centers on the East Coast, we also offer an unmatched array of experiences where attendees can meet, connect and let loose with our famous boardwalk and beaches, glitzy casino resorts and world-class entertainment options.”

Visit Atlantic City plans to roll out new marketing materials centered on a series of personality traits it believes describes the “vibes” visitors can expect when coming to the seaside town: Playful, Bold, Eclectic, Celebratory and Iconic.

In announcing the rebrand, Visit Atlantic City also noted its 2022 success — hosting a total of 209 events, resulting in 264,551 room nights and 498,795 attendees that generated a total economic impact of just over $300 million.

“We have doubled our numbers in terms of room nights and economic impact since the pandemic hit in 2020, showing that in-person events are a crucial part of doing business across almost every industry,” said Sieg. “We still have work to do to surpass our pre-pandemic numbers, but we’re confident in our current trajectory and growing interest we’re seeing from the meetings and convention industry that this goal is within reach.”

Small also plans to use part of an $800,000 U.S. Economic Development Authority grant to better market citywide events.

He said in that effort to transform the narrative about Atlantic City this year, officials will increase transparency on the city website, social media accounts and through Citistat and Compstat programs, allowing residents to address quality of life and safety issues with city and police leaders.

And one last component of the transformation is a situation that has remained unresolved for some time: the future of Bader Field.

There are currently competing plans from two Philadelphia developers to redevelop the more than 140 acres of land. Small says he and the City Council are united about Bader Field and are continuing to work on a redevelopment agreement.

“In 2022, Atlantic City demonstrated its strength as a regional destination for discerning gaming and leisure tourists,” said Plousis. “Reinvestments recently made in the casino hotels have improved competition and will continue to pay dividends not only for the properties and their customers, but also the city, the region and the state into the future.”

Looking forward to 2023, Atlantic City’s operators are expected to continue diversifying and evolving gaming and nongaming offerings to deliver a competitive customer experience in an increasingly crowded regional gaming market,” said Bokunewicz.

“We’re going to be bold, we’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to tell it like it is, and we’re going to think outside the box,” said Small. “We’re always going to be a casino town, but now we’re going to show the world we’re so much more than that.”