How do you measure success?
For the past 34 years in Atlantic City, success has been measured one way and pretty much only one way - by casino win.
But it is now becoming clear that gambling revenue is not the only way to measure success in the resort. The real picture of how the city is doing is more complicated, as the city has added more retail, dining and entertainment options.
And if the Atlantic City Alliance's "Do AC" marketing campaign for the city is going to stress nongambling revenue, as it does, including those kind of attractions in any yardstick of success is not just a good idea - it's crucial.
Not to mention a whole lot less depressing than casino revenue, which has been on a well-documented six-year slide thanks to gambling competition in surrounding states.
But the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority's new plan to track food and beverage spending, retail and ticket sales in the resort is not an exercise in mere boosterism.
Done right, which admittedly isn't easy, it could become a valuable metric and provide a more realistic picture of how the resort is doing - and where the city's marketing efforts should be focused.
Gambling isn't enough anymore. Everyone realizes that by now. And Atlantic City is more than gambling. But not enough people know that. So quite possibly, more data on who is spending what in Atlantic City can be leveraged into ... more spending.
The ACCVA has hired the Linwood-based Spectrum Gaming Group to compile the monthly report, which is expected to debut in February. It's a unique venture because the data can't be gleaned simply by looking at a government report. Spectrum plans to develop a reporting model based on information from credit card companies, ticket sales for Atlantic City events, and additional data from casinos on nongambling revenue.
The city's luxury tax - 3 percent on alcoholic beverages sold by the glass and 9 percent on hotel rooms, food and ticket purchases - has been somewhat helpful in tracking nongambling revenue. It has also been an encouraging indicator: Luxury-tax revenue hit an all-time high of $31 million in 2011, as casino revenue was declining. That means something - and a more detailed look at nongambling spending in the resort would provide an even clearer picture of where the city is and where it needs to go.
Once, determining Atlantic City's success (or failure) was much simpler. A reporter would ask a Beach Patrol chief how many people were on the beach during a holiday weekend; the chief would step outside lifeguard headquarters, look up and down the beach, and say, "Looks like 500,000 people to me."
Those days are long gone. Hard data rules today. And the more of it Atlantic City can develop, the