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Newsletter, January 2005 (Issue 158)

Gambling and Casinos

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Whilst your Newsletter Editor was enjoying southern hemisphere hospitality, I was confined to the eastern shores of the United States (and enduring presidential electioneering at its worst).

I had primarily travelled to open up channels of communication with the people of Jamestown, Virginia, where almost 400 years ago Bartholomew Gosnold and others founded the first permanent English speaking colony in the New World. Already IBC officers and councillors are talking of establishing links to reinforce the Ipswich connection. Gosnold, aboard the Godspeed, probably sailed from the Waterfront in the autumn of 1606.

During my travels I took the opportunity to visit waterfront developments in New York, Baltimore and Norfolk, Virginia and the casinos of Atlantic City. You will understand my obsession with developing waterfronts but I'm not a gambler, so why the latter?

Atlantic City was a typical east coast seaside town that had seen better days, similar in many ways to Great Yarmouth and Southend. The hotels were not attracting visitors and the retail outlets along the Boardwalk (promenade) were failing. The city fathers decided that Las Vegas style casinos were the way forward; they would create jobs and bring wealth to the town. Ten years on and the new casino hotels tower above the deserted beaches. However, the employment on offer is limited, predominantly at the minimum wage level and the regeneration of the seaside town has not occurred, The gambling visitors drive into town, park in the multi-storey, cross the bridge into a glittering reception area emblazoned with slot machines, get elevated to their rooms and then spend their cash in the casino below.

If there are any windows in the casino they are glazed with a dull grey glass that makes the outside look as if it's raining on a dismal November day. The lights glitter, the "eat all you can" buffet is cheap and the apparent chance of winning ever present. All reasons to stay indoors and push quarters into the casino owners' pockets. If you do attempt to venture out you'll almost certainly finish up on an interconnecting walkway into the next casino. We did make it on to the Boardwalk - a more depressing social plight you could not wish to see.

The tourists are almost all gone, replaced by beggars, serial gamblers who have lost everything, prostitutes and empty aluminium can collectors. The money made by the casinos is going to the multi-national corporations and their shareholders and, for the most part, not being re-invested in Atlantic City. It should be conditional that any British politician considering changing the laws on gambling here spend a weekend on the Boardwalk!


    Front cover of issue 158 Cover, issue 158

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