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
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!