Atlantic City Casinos Could Face Summer With No Beach

It was supposed to be replenished last year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2024 4:50 PM CDT
Atlantic City Casinos Are Desperately Seeking Sand
A load of sand is dumped on the beach in front of the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City last year.   (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File)

The ocean and beaches have always been a part of Atlantic City's identity: from salt water taffy to Miss America bathing beauties to the name of the place itself, the city has been marketed as a place to have fun by the sea. But there is a little too much Atlantic in Atlantic City this year as the crucial summer season approaches. Weeks of winter storms have badly eroded beaches in the northern section of town, leaving little if any sand on which to play during all but the lowest tides. Executives with the three northernmost casinos: the Ocean Casino Resort, Resorts, and Hard Rock, are pressing the federal and state governments to expedite a beach replenishment project that was supposed to have been done last year.

But under the current best-case scenario, new sand won't be hitting the beaches until late summer, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that oversees such projects. And that has the casinos concerned about not having an essential element of their tourism appeal. Atlantic City has long said its beaches set it apart from the plentiful gambling options elsewhere in the region and the country. Without them, it could be a harder sell in attracting tourists and gamblers, the AP reports. Hard Rock lost its popular beach bar to repeated winter storms. "It was totally destroyed," says general manager Mike Sampson. "Parts of it washed out to sea; debris remained on the beach and had to be disposed of."

He says Hard Rock is hopeful it can still rent out beach cabanas and umbrellas this summer, albeit on a smaller beach. Last summer, the Ocean Casino spent $600,000 to truck in and dump sand on its beach, which was not in as bad a shape as it is this year. "How do you run a beach resort without a beach?" asks Bill Callahan, Ocean's general manager. "It's a tough pill to swallow." And an expensive one: that sand quickly washed away, and even less is left there now. At high tide, the ocean waves lap up against the dune, which itself is badly eroded. "By the end of summer, all that sand was gone," says Ian Jerome, project director for Ocean's effort last year. "That is not a sustainable option."

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Stephen Rochette, a spokesman for the Army Corps, says a contract for the work will be put out to bid in April or May, with the work starting "sometime this summer or in the fall." Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts casino and of the Casino Association of New Jersey, says the casinos want at least some of the project to be carried out in early summer—what he called a possible "beach-lite" option. "Everyone realizes the importance of getting this sand," he said. "The sense of urgency is real."

(More Atlantic City stories.)

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