As a newly minted tour guide, I got to know Atlantic City, New Jersey quite well. The tour company I worked for ran a lot of bus tours to Atlantic City. On any given day, there were generally at least half dozen tours there at the various casino resorts. Twenty plus years ago the only place on the East Coast to gamble was Atlantic City.
The trips usually lasted three days. The tour guides only saw the tour passengers on the first and last days. The trips weren’t really tours, per se. Basically, they were transportation for gamblers. These folks weren’t interested in fun, fascinating facts about the George Washington Bridge, for instance. They mostly wanted to play Bingo. And more Bingo. And then some more Bingo. The point was not sightseeing. The point was gambling.
I had been told during my initial tour guide interview that, as a new guide, I would be spending quite a bit of time in Atlantic City. Like many other professions, scheduling was based on seniority. Rookie guides got to go to the casinos. Senior guides got the better tours, with a few exceptions. In terms of trips to the casinos, somehow I got to be the “Princess Taj Majal”. Nine times out of ten when I was sent to Atlantic City, I went to the Taj. It was brightly colored and very extravagant. It was, at the time, Donald Trump’s newest casino.
When we got to Taj Majal, we pulled into a special parking slot where a hotel representative greeted the bus. The rep had room keys, tickets to shows, meal tickets, and a coupon for a roll of quarters, redeemable in the casino. I distributed these and gave everyone on the bus a stern warning. I told them that the bus would be leaving on the final day of the tour promptly at 2 pm. We would wait for no one. I told the passengers that if I did not see them at 2 pm on the final day of the tour, I would assume that they had hit a big jackpot and that they had chartered a private limousine for their return trip. We would not wait regardless of how generous the slot machine was being or what their run of luck was like. We would leave at 2 pm promptly. I could not stress this enough because, in fact, we did not wait for late-comers.
Atlantic City was an interesting destination for me. I am not a gambler. Not even a little bit. In fact, I always redeemed my coupon for the roll of quarters and then took my $10 back to the room with me. I did not even gamble with the money the casino “gave” us. I was always sure to bring a couple books along with me to have something to do. I like to read. These were pre-Internet, smartphone days.
There were a few non-gambling activities in Atlantic City. Often the tour guides and bus drivers would meet at the Showboat Casino to go bowling. They had a bowling alley in the basement of the casino. Of course, walking the Boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean was fun. Especially when the seagulls would dive bomb an unsuspecting tourist holding ice cream or pizza. There was a small shopping mall on a pier with a salad place in the food court that made excellent Caesar salads. Of course, I highly recommend the White House Sub Shop on Artic Avenue for the best Italian sub ever.
The main gathering place for the guides and drivers in Atlantic City, however, was the Irish Pub, at St. James Place and the Boardwalk, within walking distance of all the casinos. You were certain to meet up with other tour guides and bus drivers from our tour company at the Irish Pub. There was camaraderie. There were drinks. There was food. There were drinks. There was story telling. There were drinks. There was a good time. There were drinks. The Irish Pub never disappointed.
I did my fair share of trips to Atlantic City during my first summer as a tour guide. Some twenty years later the company no longer offers tours to Atlantic City. Gamblers have many other options now. Atlantic City is not what it used to be.