Atlantic City hopping after shutdown snafu

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It was only Monday, but there was every indication that this would be a very busy week in Atlantic City.

The sun was shining, the boardwalk was hopping with tourists and the casinos were once again open.

"Things appear to be getting back to normal," said Elaine Zamansky, a spokeswoman for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, as Atlantic City steadily returned to business as usual after all 12 of the city's casinos were forced to shut down on July 5.

The shutdown, unprecedented in the 28-year history of Atlantic City gaming, was the result of a impasse over New Jersey's 2007 state budget, as Gov. Jon Corzine and state lawmakers squared off over how best to close a projected $4 billion deficit.

As the July 1 deadline for approving the budget for the 2007 fiscal year came and went, the governor began furloughing nonessential government employees.

After Independence Day, the furloughs continued with state parks and beach employees.

Finally, on July 5, casino inspectors, who supervise gaming activity in Atlantic City, were sent home. Casinos, by law, are not permitted to operate without state supervision.

Soon after the shutdown, at least half of the 45,000 people who work in Atlantic City's casinos were also sent home.

A budget agreement was reached within days. While the shutdown lasted just 72 hours, it took a toll.

At least one news report dubbed Atlantic City's famed Boardwalk the "Bored walk," as gaming vacationers strolled around with little to do other than soak up sunshine, shop and dine.

Fickle gamblers trekked northward

"People who were interested only in gambling left or were not happy about sticking around," Zamansky said.

Some made their way to southeastern Connecticut to gamble in the region's two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

"We saw double-digit increases," said Sandra Rios, a Foxwoods spokeswoman.

Foxwoods typically welcomes about 40,000 guests a day. The resort added more motorcoaches to handle the influx of visitors.

Hotel occupancy at Foxwoods typically runs high during the summer, Rios said.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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