By Mike DeNardo
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) – The Miss America pageant returns to Atlantic City Sunday night and state and county officials hope that the contestant who emerges with the crown won’t be the only winner.
New Jersey enticed the Miss America pageant to leave Las Vegas with a package including hundreds of free and discounted hotel rooms, free use of Boardwalk Hall, and more than $7-million in state and county money to help pay production costs.
Casino Reinvestment Development Authority executive director John Palmieri expects that investment to provide a local jackpot:
“We’ve concluded, based on the consulting study that was prepared, that we’ll see about 30 to 35 million dollars in economic impact. About $15 million in direct spending, and another $15 to $20 million has to do with other auxiliary types of things, from vending services to other support type of activities that provide employment for people.”
The contract puts Miss America back in Atlantic City for the next three years.
As part of the contract that brought the pageant back to Atlantic City, Miss America will serve as a spokeswoman for the resort, making promotional appearances and mentioning Atlantic City in press interviews.
Jeff Guaracino, a spokesman for the Atlantic City Alliance — a group funded by the casino industry — says that has real value:
“To have a very young woman who is fresh and very social media savvy and someone who is enthusiastic and energetic is really important to when you’re selling a destination and reselling a destination like Atlantic City.”
The pageant telecast will also include an eight-minute opening segment, introducing the contestants at selected locations throughout Atlantic City. Guaracino says taking advantage of the pageant’s network television exposure and national media coverage is part a long-term strategy to market Atlantic City.
Miss America’s popularity had slipped so far that the pageant wasn’t even on network television between 2007 and 2009, but Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell says the six-hour TLC reality show that preceded the pageant those years, rebuilt the young audience:
“The only way for Miss America or any organization like this to survive is to have young people who are interested in it. And younger girls were watching reality shows and they watched the Miss America reality show.”
Haskell says as a result, the median age of pageant viewers dropped from 58 to 37, and that got the attention of network TV once again.
With the eyes of the nation on Atlantic City Sunday night, security is a priority. Atlantic City tourism district commander Tom Gilbert says law enforcement is using its experience with other large events including concerts at Bader Field and the A-C Air show:
“As the pageant comes in to Atlantic City, we’re not starting from scratch. We’re in a very solid position with the public safety partnerships that we’ve built out every day here.”
Gilbert says not only are officers from other local, county and state agencies helping out, but police are monitoring a network of security cameras:
“There’s many layers of eyes and ears here in the city right now. We have a lot of cameras in the city, in places that you might not think they would be.”
A police officer has also been assigned to each of the 53 contestants.