2018-07-04 / Voice at the Shore

July 10 film event features Boardwalk Empire author Nelson Johnson

Shirat Hayam fundraiser at Resorts July 24 celebrates AC’s gaming history
By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Gaming consultant Michael Pollock wrote the book on AC gaming: “Hostage to Fortune: Atlantic City and Casino Gambling.” Gaming consultant Michael Pollock wrote the book on AC gaming: “Hostage to Fortune: Atlantic City and Casino Gambling.” “Atlantic City’s best days are ahead,” said Michael Pollock, a long-time Shirat Hayam/Beth Judah member who is also an international gaming consultant with the AC-based Spectrum Gaming Group. With the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the Ocean Resort Casino opening here only days ago to huge fanfare and excitement, “a lot of smart operators are betting on Atlantic City.”

Notably, this resurgence of excitement in AC coincides with the 40th anniversary of casino gambling here. That’s one of many reasons that Pollock came up with the idea of having a Shirat Hayam fundraiser celebrating the history of casino gambling in AC on July 24 at Resorts Casino (which happens to be Atlantic City’s first casino). Members of the Jewish community, business community, and community at-large are all invited to attend.


Nelson Johnson, author of “Boardwalk Empire,” will speak at Shirat Hayam on July 10. Nelson Johnson, author of “Boardwalk Empire,” will speak at Shirat Hayam on July 10. The fundraiser, dubbed “Atlantic City Gaming: Past, Present and Beyond,” will feature three big players in Atlantic City gaming: Former NJ legislator and local attorney Steven Perskie, whom Pollock calls “the architect of AC casino gambling;” local attorney Lloyd D. Levenson, an internationally recognized expert in gaming law who helped establish Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism; and Pollock himself, who literally wrote the book about Atlantic City gaming—“Hostage to Fortune: Atlantic City and Casino Gambling,” published in 1987.

Perskie is the star of the show, stressed Pollock. A former legislator and commissioner of the Casino Control Commission, Perskie is responsible for drafting the New Jersey Casino Control Act and was the primary advocate and sponsor for the introduction of legalized casino gaming in Atlantic City.

At the Resorts event, which begins at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 24, Pollock will conduct what he is calling a “One-On- One” interview with Perskie, while attendees enjoy cocktails and appetizers generously donated by Resorts Casino. Levenson will serve as master of ceremonies for the event.

“It’s going to be a fascinating examination of what took place behind the scenes 40 years ago [when casino gambling in AC began], what the expectations were, what the reality is, what the future holds,” said Pollock. It will also be “a very colorful and interesting examination of one of the most fascinating cities in the U.S.”

And yes, he is talking about Atlantic City. “How many cities of 40,000 people have the reputation, colorful background, and extraordinary history of Atlantic City? All you have to do is look at a monopoly board or watch ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ and you’ll find that there’s nowhere quite like it in the world,” said Pollock, who provides gaming advice to cities around the globe with his company, Spectrum Gaming.

“We work around the world, but Atlantic City is our first love,” he added.

As a warm-up act to the July 24 event, “Boardwalk Empire” author Nelson Johnson will speak at Shirat Hayam in Ventnor on July 10 at 7 p.m. Johnson, a former local attorney who is now a New Jersey Superior Court Judge, wrote the book that inspired HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” series, which highlighted the glitz, glamour and corruption of prohibition-era Atlantic City during the 1920s. A screening of the 1980 film “Atlantic City,” starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon, will follow Johnson’s appearance.

The entire community is invited to attend the talk and film. The event, which includes light refreshments, is free to ticket holders and sponsors of the July 24 fundraiser at Resorts; for all others, a $5 donation is requested in advance, or $10 at the door.

Blecker and other organizers are hoping they’ve hit the jackpot with the casino fundraiser, given its broad community appeal. “It’s a great time to celebrate our gaming history. With the opening of new casinos, there’s a lot of excitement,” said Blecker. “We already have six major sponsors and ten table sponsors, and the ballroom has the capacity to hold hundreds of people,” he noted.

Blecker, who came to Atlantic City just in time to see Resorts open in 1978, recalled the transformative and positive impacts that gaming has had on all aspects of life in Atlantic City over the past 40 years.

Blecker said he is hoping to get event sponsors to write about how casino gambling changed their lives in the online ad book for the event. Many different levels of sponsorship opportunities are available, he added.

Major sponsors for Shirat Hayam’s Gaming fundraiser currently include Resorts Casino, Kramer Beverage, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, AC Linen, Atlantic County Vascular Institute, and the law firm Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo.

Proceeds from the event will be used to fund Shirat Hayam’s Preschool Scholarships as well as its Community Garden, where “we grow food and donate it to the Food Bank,” said Blecker. “We really want to expand our efforts in that regard,” he added.

Individual tickets to “Atlantic City Gaming: Past, Present and Beyond” at Resorts Casino on Tuesday, July 24, at 5:30 p.m., cost $60 each. A table sponsorship, which includes 10 tickets, costs $500. For information on other sponsorship opportunities, or for more information on the fundraiser (or on the July 10 film and speaker at Shirat Hayam), contact David Blecker at 609-432- 6712 or drsblecker@comcast.net, or Jim Dine at 609-705-2280 or jdine@kramerbev.org. 

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