The Atlantic City Alliance is making a multi-year commitment to bring more conventions to the resort.
The alliance, a marketing group funded by the city's casinos, said this week it will extend a program that offers subsidies to lure conventions and meetings. A previous $1 million commitment is bringing three new conventions to town this year. The alliance says it will now put up an additional $1 million a year for the next three years.
What a smart idea. So smart that we wonder why the investment isn't larger. You'd think spending money to help bring conventions to the city would be one of the alliance's top priorities.
The $3 million over three years is half of what the alliance is kicking in to bring sculpture gardens and other art projects to the city. Convention subsidies would certainly seem to have much greater potential for helping the city's bottom line.
The program initially targets first-time conventions that take place in the middle of the week, from fall to spring, when an influx of visitors can make the most difference for the city's economy. The money can be used to offset costs for gatherings at the Atlantic City Convention Center or at casino ballrooms and meeting centers - transportation costs, rent, food and beverages, receptions or even electric bills. To be eligible, conventions must generate 1,000 room nights.
That translates into a lot of people with money to spend and a lot of opportunities to impress them with what Atlantic City has to offer.
Alliance officials have said that one of the challenges in booking conventions is the glut of convention space on the East Coast. So many convention centers have been built that some cities are practically giving away meeting space. These new subsidies will help Atlantic City compete with those cities and encourage groups unfamiliar with the resort to consider it for their meetings. Once they do, the city's attractions - the ocean, the Boardwalk, the casinos, the night life - should be able to stand up favorably to anything other cities have to offer.
The effort is especially important now, when some people in other parts of the country still think Hurricane Sandy ravaged the city. Atlantic City lost dozens of convention bookings after the storm and needs a way to encourage convention planners to take another look.
This is a natural role for the alliance to play. But wouldn't more seed money bring more conventions?
This program is such a good bet on Atlantic City's future, we think the alliance should up the ante.