Promises kept, problems remain after 30 years of Atlantic City casinos - Tuesday 27th of May 2008

The ads were titled "Help Yourself, Help Atlantic City, Help New Jersey," and they made a series of promises, if only voters would pull the "yes" lever to legalize casino gambling.

Having casinos in Atlantic City would "balance taxes, create jobs, boost the economy, and cut down on street crime," the advertisements assured.

Thirty years after singer Steve Lawrence tossed the first dice onto a green felt table to kick off legalized gambling on Memorial Day 1978, there is no question that casinos have transformed Atlantic City into a $5 billion-a-year powerhouse.

But while most of those promises were kept, many of the problems the gambling halls and their billions were intended to address remain.

Casinos created tens of thousands of jobs, a flood of money for state coffers, and put New Jersey on the national map for vacation and gambling junkets. But they also created a sharper divide between the haves and have-nots. Before voters approved casino gambling in 1976, Atlantic City was a poor city struggling with crime, drugs and lack of jobs. Today it has the casinos, but the other problems persist.

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