You can talk about Atlantic City in terms of erecting casinos Hard Rock and Ocean Resort, or opening hot spots such as the Anchor Rock Club. And you will. But, for all the building and confidence in the new AC, something not to be ignored is this shore town’s given, gorgeous amenities, something that was here long before the casinos and clubs came to town: the natural beauty of the sand and the water, the sturdy mass of the mighty Boardwalk, and how they currently play into AC’s complete and au courant pleasure-dome effect.
Though the ocean is ancient and the Boardwalk is aged (first built in the 1880s, the structure existing now was redone in 1970), utilizing its beauty in the casino-era has only recently affected the shore seasons there, with everything from beach concerts with top-tier names (Pink in 2017, Jimmy Buffett in 2016), to food and wine festivals with famed chefs, to events along the boards portraying Broadway shows and food truck parties.
And so far, nobody on the Atlantic City beach has punched anyone in the face like in Wildwood.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) is responsible for all-of-the-above — a state governmental agency, founded in 1984 after New Jersey citizens approved a constitutional amendment in 1976 that allowed the Legislature to authorize casino gambling in Atlantic City. Its principle fiduciary responsibility is directing the spending of casino reinvestment funds in public and private projects to benefit AC and other NJ state areas. An early example of its financial outlay is that between 1985 and 2008, CRDA spent $1.5 billion on projects in Atlantic City and $300 million throughout NJ. But, there’s more to CRDA than money that drives AC’s social engine. “We own and operate Atlantic City Convention Center, Boardwalk Hall, and are in charge of maintaining and promoting the land use of the Atlantic City’s tourist district – which includes all the property where the casinos are housed,” said CRDA Chief of Staff Marshall Spevak, a man whose job title changes to deputy executive on July 1. “On top of all that, we are tasked with economic development in AC, working with existing projects and new partners such as Stockton University and its campus being built along the Boardwalk, and finding new partners for Boardwalk and beach events.”
Those events and partnerships that CRDA get behind run the gamut from big name, nationally-known concert promoters to bourgeoning enterprising culinary showrunners. Though the CRDA doesn’t only plan spring and summer events (e.g., Atlantic City Restaurant Week was March 4-9), with concerts that must accommodate what Spevak estimates is “40,000 to 50,000 people on a beach,” it was obvious that CRDA would choose a company such as Live Nation. “We base our decisions on costs and capacity, and they’re one of the few companies that could put on a show for a crowd of that size,” claimed Spevak, who has been throwing AC Beach concerts with Live Nation since 2014.
Geoff Gordon, the regional president of Live Nation, said that his company shares CRDA’s commitment to Atlantic City and looks forward to continuing to grow the live entertainment offerings in the state of New Jersey while supporting the local community. “We are proud to partner with CRDA on the Atlantic City BeachFest Concerts,” said Gordon. “Along with featuring world class talent, the series offers an exciting and unique setting to experience all that AC has to offer drawing fans from both near and far.”
When it comes to AC’s culinary offerings, Karen Martin, CRDA’s Communications Manager, remarked that much of what they do flies under the radar, and that the CRDA’s goal was to change that. “We have celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsey that do incredible things inside and outside the casinos, but we also give seed money to small operators and entrepreneurs for events such as the Atlantic City Food Truck Festival, our Beer and Music Festival and our Seafood Festival,” said Martin. “We don’t pay for these events. We just start in with seed money to help something grow. Something like that is the key to what CRDA does.”
Atlantic City’s casino fortunes have gone in and out with the tide in decades’ past, and are counting on the tidal wave of good tiding and great entertainment that seems to be coming strong at present. The CRDA is there to help. “The state thought we would help improve the financial situation of Atlantic City,” said Spevak. “We can do that, and help AC meet its financial obligations.”
According to CRDA lore, as part of the original Casino Control Act enacted in 1977, each casino licensee was required to reinvest 2 percent of its gross gaming revenue. In 1984, the State Legislature established the CRDA, which developed guidelines describing a casino licensee’s investment obligations consistent with the intent of the original statute.
The 1984 law gives each casino a choice: pay 2.5 percent of its gaming revenue to the State, or reinvest 1.25 percent of its gaming revenues through the CRDA in community and economic development projects in AC and around the State. “CRDA is unique in that we are a state authority – the only organization like this in the country – operating on a variety of different funding mechanisms,” said CRDA’s Marshall Spevak. “We don’t receive money from the state, but rather, get money from the luxury tax in Atlantic City, and parking fees and hotel room tax and such.” Just to insure fairness and accuracy, the CRDA’s seventeen members include six members of the public appointed by the governor and two casino representatives/members of the casino gaming industry at all times.
“The Investment Alternative Tax that casinos chose to pay in lieu of percentage of gross gaming revenue is also held for projects the casinos want to do that are non-gaming additions to their properties,” added Spevak who pointed to Resorts Casino’s Margaritaville Beach Bar in partnership with Jimmy Buffett, as examples of non-gaming entities that CRDA is interested in when it comes to the casinos.
Sun, Fun and Big Events
June 23 and 24: Atlantic City Food Truck Festival, Brighton Park at The Claridge
This noon-till-night festival of outdoor eats features cuisine from inside and outside the casino strips’s walls, as well as AC’s busy array of trucks
July 1: Sam Hunt on Atlantic City Beach at 7 p.m.
Hunt is the new toast of Nashville (well, Cedartown, GA) with a muscular country twang to match his intimate singer-songwriter eclat.
July 26 – Demi Lovato on Atlantic City Beach at 7 p.m.
Pop’s most emotive female vocalist plays her only East Coast live showcase along the sand-and-shore stages.
July 29 – The Chainsmokers on Atlantic City at noon
Electro pop’s most hedonistic DJ/programming duo present a slew of platinum single and new dance tracks.
Sept. 8-9 – Atlantic City Seafood Festival at Bader Field
For the first time in 15 years, AC’s seafood boil is two days long.
Sept. 15-16 – PBR’s (Professional Bull Riders) Elite Tour, at Boardwalk Hall
Bull riders unite for two days of bucking and bronc-ing.