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Slots and Skunk: Atlantic City Mayor Looks to Las Vegas as New Jersey Anticipates Legal Cannabis

Mayor Frank Gilliam will join a handful of Garden State officials on a marijuana fact-finding mission to Sin City.

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Photo via Marco Verch

America’s adult playgrounds are going to pot, and Atlantic City wants in on the fun.

It’s been less than a month since New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy took over for disgraced beachcomber Chris Christie, but all eyes are already on legal weed. After campaign promises to end cannabis prohibition during his first 100 days in office, Murphy has so far stuck by his guarantee, with local legislators following suit by introducing two bills to bring recreational reefer to the Garden State.

Now, as local officials and state lawmakers brace for the inevitable by preemptively welcoming or banning legal weed sales, Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam is one step ahead, already prepping for a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada on what is billed as a fact-finding mission to see how gaming and ganja have successfully cohabitated in Sin City.

According to NJ.com, Gilliam has already expressed interest in bringing legal weed businesses and sales to Atlantic City, even informally asking Murphy to turn the East Coast gambling hub into a test city for adult-use cannabis sales and consumption.

"The key for me is to get more knowledge on how they rolled out the process and understand the pros and cons," Gilliam told NJ.com. "They have gaming like we do, so I want to figure out how those things coexist, and figure out to make it work for Atlantic City."

During the Murphy campaign, Garden State cannabis advocates argued that legalization would not only help the state from a criminal justice angle, but financially as well. In Atlantic City, where gambling has for decades boosted state coffers, a huge decline in casino business has caused a dozen casinos to close and 11,000 jobs to disappear since 2006. With pot legalization in New Jersey seemingly inevitable, Gilliam is hopeful that cannabis can bring tourism back to the seaside destination.

Since beginning legal weed sales in July 2017, Las Vegas has seen record-setting sales numbers and a boost in overall tourism.

In addition to Atlantic City’s mayor, a number of New Jersey state lawmakers, cannabis regulators, and city officials will join Gilliam on the Las Vegas trip, including visits to a cultivation center, retail shops, and meetings with Nevada officials.