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Comments by YACCS
Friday, April 28, 2006

A crime against nature

A sign on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City done
up in Monopoly-game style. Hasbro is planning
a new version of the game that does not use the
city's streets, but local officials are campaigning
against the idea.

Atlantic City May Lose Out in a New Version of Monopoly

Published: April 28, 2006

ATLANTIC CITY, April 27 — It has been a long time since anyone could try to buy a hotel on Ventnor Avenue for $400.

But news that the toy maker Hasbro is planning to drop Atlantic City from its flagship version of Monopoly has left people on the streets of this gambling resort startled and local officials protesting.

Since the game made its debut in 1930, it has sold 250 million copies, making famous the names of Atlantic City's byways, like Baltic Avenue, Park Place and the Boardwalk. And while the game has spawned 200 spinoffs — including Hawaii-opoly, Star Wars Monopoly and even a SpongeBob SquarePants edition, set in the fictional town of Bikini Bottom — Atlantic City has remained the locale for the standard edition, which is by far the most popular.

Now, however, Hasbro has announced plans to update the game to a "here and now" version, raising rents and letting the public vote on streets, neighborhoods and national monuments to fill the 22 properties on the board. And Atlantic City is not among the choices.

The company will still produce the Atlantic City-based, "classic" version of the game, but the "here and now" version is projected to be their best sellers.

In Atlantic City, where many residents consider their connection with Monopoly a point of civic pride, Hasbro's decision makes about as much sense as Scrabble without vowels, and has spurred officials to organize a lobbying campaign to pressure Hasbro into reconsidering.

"Sure, put in the Statue of Liberty and Disney World and other places," said Jeffrey Vassar, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has a "Help Keep Atlantic City on the Board" petition on the city's Web site, "But it's a slight to not have the Atlantic City Boardwalk as one of the stops," he added.

It's the latest bad news for a struggling city still trying to cope with the loss of the Miss America pageant, a smoking ban in bars and restaurants, and gambling competition from Delaware and, soon, Pennsylvania. But there have been bright spots, too. During the past year, the city's 12 casinos have been buoyed by development along the waterfront and posted record revenues.

Some residents fear, however, that the town is fading into irrelevance. Carmine Covino, a waiter at a restaurant on Pacific Avenue, said that until recently, when he heard people compare Atlantic City unfavorably to Las Vegas, he would defend his hometown by saying: "They don't have a board game, do they? They don't have Miss America."

"Well, I guess we don't have that anymore either," Mr. Covino, 19, said on Thursday.

When Monopoly was devised in the 1930's, Atlantic City was chosen because it epitomized the kind of glittering tourist destination that many Depression-era Americans could only fantasize about visiting.

Charles B. Darrow, an unemployed salesman, sketched the prototype board game on a tablecloth at his home in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, using 21 street names from Atlantic City. (The final space, Marvin Gardens, was a name taken from the neighboring community of Margate City, where it is spelled Marvyn.)

The Parker Brothers game company rejected Mr. Darrow's proposal, so he went to a printer and began selling it himself. It caught on so quickly that Parker Brothers eventually reversed itself. It began mass-marketing Monopoly in 1935, and that year it became the world's best-selling board game. Pat Riso, a Hasbro spokeswoman, said it decided last year to poll fans to see how they might recast the game if it were to be developed today. So the "here and now" version will replace railroads with airlines. Utilities will be updated (Ms. Riso would not say with what, but allowed that Internet providers is a good guess.) Rents will rise, along with the cost of bail and the $200 payment for passing "Go."

In one uncharacteristic bow to the past, free parking will remain free. The company says it would not be swayed by Atlantic City's campaign to be included in the updated version.

"We love their passion, we think that's fabulous," Ms. Riso said. "But at this time, we are not planning on changing the online vote."

This is wrong.

posted by Steve @ 3:39:00 PM

3:39:00 PM

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