- Mass Market Paperback
- Publisher: Bantam; Bantam Paperback Edition edition (July 1, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553261215
- ISBN-13: 978-0553261219
- Package Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,589,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Boardwalk Jungle,the Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 1987
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The Camden and Atlantic Railroad was built to connect Camden and Absecon Island in 1854 and provided faster access than by stagecoach. The terminus was named “Atlantic City” (p.15). By 1880 Atlantic City was a thriving summer resort. Its Convention Center was built in 1929 the largest unobstructed room in the world (488 feet long, 288 feet wide, 137 feet high). Chapter 2 explains how any political machine must work to be successful: provide gambling, prostitution, alcohol, and drugs 24x7. With police protection for those who pay for it. (This ignores any commercial rivalry or union breaking.) The Depression and changing fashions led to the downfall of this Queen of Resorts.
Did corruption and crime kill Atlantic City? Can any resort area outlive changing fashions? Chapter 5 points to Newark. With its seaport, airport, and train station, New York close by, it should be NJ’s best city, not a national example of urban decay. Does this reflect the policies of the state’s Ruling Class? Chapter 8 tells of the politics in passing a referendum to allow gambling in Atlantic City. It names the politicians and fixers behind this deal. Does NJ have the reputation as the most corrupt in the nation? It was run in turn by large landowners, railroads, insurance companies, and big banks (p.62). Could this be due to its powerful state government and the relative lack of democratic power of the people?
Part II tell “The Way It Is” and covers the decade after the Casino Control Act was passed. It has all the big names in Jersey politics, and the squalid scandals. Read it for all the stories on corruption that they will never teach you in school. Since the book ends in 1985 it doesn’t cover the effects of the other casinos across the country, or in nearby Connecticut. Too many casinos chasing fewer gamblers? This and changing fashions could mean another decline for Atlantic City. Or maybe not, it they can change with the times. Pages 204 5 tell how Bally moved from pinball machines into video games, and opened “family amusement centers” in shopping malls, and acquired theme parks, health clubs, and the biggest supplier of lottery tickets in the nation.
After gambling was legalized, property taxes, water, sewer, and utility bills increased by 200 300%; street crimes, prostitution, and drug abuse went up 500% (pp. 367 8). Ninety percent of the businesses operating in 1976 were gone by 1985 (p.378). So who really profited? Chapter 31 gives “The Bottom Line” and summarizes the effects of legalized gambling. Where it once had 30,000 rooms and was a family vacation resort now has a fraction of that in first class hotel rooms. Las Vegas has far more (but this may reflect travel times). “Gambling is a parasitic enterprise that thrives on the weaknesses of people. It leaves in its wake corruption, debasement, despair, and the subversion of moral authority. That is the real bottom line” (p.424).
Ovid Demaris is a journalist who covers similar topics of corruption.
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The Camden and Atlantic Railroad was built to connect Camden and Absecon Island in 1854 and provided faster access than by stagecoach.Read more