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Covid-19 Has Closed Atlantic City, But It Can’t Beat Mike Gill

Not being able to talk about live sports is one thing, but throw in the inability to talk about gambling and it’s a whole other element. As casinos across the country remain closed, that means sports gambling has essentially come to a complete halt after gaining a ton of traction over the past year. 

In Atlantic City, casinos have been closed since March 16th. Over the course of a month, that equals to around 500 million dollars in lost revenue. Factor that in with the entire Jersey Shore being shut down and it’s easy to see how the local economy in South Jersey has been hit hard. 

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Mike Gill, program director and host at 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, is seeing the effects that closed casinos is having on the area. Most notably, with the absence of sports gambling for content. 

“Yeah, that’s been an interesting challenge,” said Gill. “We really started to add sports gambling content during the football season and that’s been almost completely stripped away. I mean we still try to throw out these segments, where, we’re looking at futures and tying it into the Eagles, which is the local team here, but it has essentially become a non-entity for us for the time being.

“But we’re trying to get creative with different future bets and some fun things. Look, at this point we’re trying to have as much fun as possible while the format sheet is out the window. If you can find something to entertain, we’re all about it. They have betting odds on, and I haven’t seen the Tiger King, but they have future odds on that show as well as others. We are utilizing it as much as we can but it’s certainly not where it was when it got legalized at first.”

When you’ve tried to establish gambling content on your local programming and it’s suddenly taken away, that can be a big adjustment. So, as both a PD and a host, you have to trust your instincts during a time like this on what’s still going to hit. Granted, with the NFL being the main show in town, things have been easier for Atlantic City than for non-football markets, but finding the perfect balance over the past month has been a day-to-day grind for most hosts. 

“I’m trying to find a balance of not going so far off the reservation, in terms of talking about sports, but we’ve just been trying to have fun,” said Gill. “Last week we did a segment where my producer had all the NBA Jam rosters from like 1994. I had to try and guess the two players that were on the NBA Jam rosters for each team. So we had fun with that and had the NBA Jam music playing in the background. 

“We had the 76ers Process quiz where I had all the players that played for the Sixers during The Process years and I will give you clues and listeners had to text in who I was talking about before my producer got it right. We’re just trying to be creative and have fun but we find people like the nostalgia of hearing the names of guys that played in the 90s. Again, we want to have fun but we don’t want to get into crazy political stuff in this time.”

Mike Gill > 97.3 ESPN ? Page 15

Two weeks ago, Jay Recher shared how 95.3 WDAE in Tampa Bay is openly trying to promote business in the area that are open. It’s a good deed for the community and has grown in popularity. It’s cool to see so many stations use their platform to help other local businesses during this time of need. And don’t be surprised to see good deeds being paid back to the stations that helped after the economy picks back up. 

97.3 ESPN is doing their own variation of showing their support to the public by recognizing those who are on the front lines of the pandemic. It’s a small gesture but still goes a long way in the community.

“I’m doing something, where I ask, once an hour, for listeners to text the name and a photo of somebody who’s a first responder, grocery store worker, on the police force or firefighters and we put their name and picture up on the website. Once an hour we read off all the names and recognize the people who are still working during this time.”

Normally during this time, the Jersey Shore is prepping for another busy summer. It’s how many local businesses in the area stay afloat for the entire year and make their living. But with everything except non-essential businesses being shut down across the country, billions of dollars could be lost if things in South Jersey are still closed during the summer. This, obviously, would kill local businesses and would have a direct effect on Gill’s station. 

“It hasn’t hit us yet, because the peak season has gotten a little later here than it used to be,” Gill said. “It’s usually around the Fourth of July where our tourism season really kind of kicks off now. That’s when the schools are out in Philadelphia when everybody comes down here. If that happens, and I just had Sal Paolantonio on Friday, he’s from the area and said if they don’t open the Jersey Shore for the summer it would be like the impact of having like five hurricanes rip through here.”

Now it just got really serious. Is that an overreaction? I’d actually tend to trust Paolantonio’s opinion on this, seeing as it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. But that paints a picture to just how bad the economic impact of Covid-19 can be on Atlantic City. And by now you know, the more local businesses are hurt, the more sports radio stations are hurt, too. 

March Sadness In Atlantic City: A Walk On The Boardwalk After Shutdown

God willing, football is going to happen and everything will be just fine. Let’s start believing that. But every station owner and PD is at least trying to project what things would look like for their respective station if football doesn’t happen. When you’re the South Jersey affiliate for the Eagles, everything seemingly rides on a successful fall season. 

“It’s probably our station’s biggest sellable time,” Gill said of football season. “At this point, I’m kind of in the camp where, if it gets off the ground on time, I don’t see how they have people in the building. Are you going to have some sort of configuration of people sitting in every third seat from each other? I don’t think people are going to feel safe going right back to 60,000 and 70,000 seat stadiums. I don’t see that happening on time. The other problem is I don’t see the training camps getting started on time. I don’t know if that matters to them, they had a lockout in 2011, and they seemed to not need all that stuff but I would be pretty shocked if opening weekend had full stadiums.”

Tyler McComas
Tyler McComashttp://34.192.167.182
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at [email protected].

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