Photos of the Depressing Casinos of Atlantic City
German photographer Ricarda Messner spent 24 hours in New Jersey's Atlantic City capturing the slot machines, lights, and Donald Trump's gaudy Taj Mahal.
All photos by the author
This past summer, I spent 24 hours in Atlantic City, 4,000 miles away from my home in Berlin. In Germany, I live close to Spielbank Berlin, the largest casino in the city. Unfortunately, it lacks the eye-widening gaudiness of literally any of America's gambling pits. Hitting the jackpot at Potsdamer Platz just doesn't feel like hitting the jackpot. So when I came to the US, I had to get to Atlantic City. I even had reoccurring dreams about the town, in which a single machine had the potential to change my life. Call me Slot Machine Dream Queen – everyone else in my dreams did.
When I finally arrived in Atlantic City, I had $20 to play with. I hit the slots and, as my dreams predicted, I won and won and won. Within no time, I considered ringing up friends and shouting, "Told ya so!" An hour later, I was up to $80 and still hadn't lost. I took a brief pause and considered stopping all together. One sip of a gin and tonic later, I changed my mind and jumped back in.
Naturally, I started losing and my small fortune quickly depleted –au revoir! Suddenly, everything started becoming too much. The machine sounds, the half-naked women dancing on the bar, the countless overweight people who all seemed to be rubbing their palms together as they fantasised about hitting 777—Jackpot!!! I ran out of the casino to get fresh air.
Outside, on the Boardwalk, it appeared like a mirage: Donald Trump's Taj Mahal. Although ownership changed long ago, his name still appears in bold on the façade. I grabbed Trump's recent issue of Time out of my bag and held it up to my line of vision. The words on the cover echoed how I felt about Atlantic City: "Deal with it," even if I didn't want to anymore.