ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City is planning a series of events to attract gay tourists, who are becoming an increasingly important part of the resort's growth strategy.
Mayor Don Guardian and tourism officials said Monday the goal is to reinvigorate a once-thriving gay community in Atlantic City.
"Atlantic City had its heyday with the gay population on New York Avenue," he said. "This is where you came when you wanted to have a good time. Straight people came to these places, too, because they wanted to party and dance in the hottest clubs."
But when casino gambling began in 1978, soaring land prices pushed out many small gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses.
Now, with the resort struggling to find a new identity and new sources of revenue, the city is once again wooing gay tourists with vigor.
Growing up gay, Guardian said the sight of a rainbow flag was a welcome sign that one's business was welcome and that it was a safe place to go if the person felt threatened by a situation.
Guardian said he hopes the thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender visitors who come to Atlantic City will come away impressed this summer, and consider the resort as a place to buy a second home.
Events aimed at the gay community include Sand Blast, a 3-day beach party weekend in July targeted to the gay community; the StandOUT Expo, a networking event in September for the LGBT community, and the Miss'd America Pageant, a drag spoof of the famous pageant, also in September. Sand Blast will include a female beach volleyball tournament called "Lez Volley," an underwear party, and a "Drag Race" and purse-tossing competition.