Sept 13 (Reuters) - The winner of the 2015 Miss America Pageant will be crowned on Sunday night in Atlantic City, and the wearer’s glittering tiara will stand in contrast to the tarnished fortunes of this New Jersey beach town where yet another casino is slated to close this week.
The newest Miss America is choreographed to walk the 50-foot runway to the tune of “There She Is, Miss America,” in a hall next door to Trump Plaza, whose slated shutdown on Tuesday means the gambling mecca will have lost a third of its casinos since the start of the year.
Atlantic City officials hope the 94-year-old beauty pageant, which returned to the casino-dotted Jersey Shore town last year after eight years in Las Vegas, will help revive the city in the wake of recent financial turmoil.
Three other casinos have shut down this year - the glitzy two-year-old Revel, the sprawling Showboat and the rundown Atlantic Club. The owner of the aging Trump Plaza is also threatening to close the enormous Trump Taj Mahal in November.
Roughly 8,300 jobs have been cut so far this year. Since 2006, gambling revenue for Atlantic City has been cut nearly in half.
“Obviously, our hearts go out to so many who have lost their jobs,” said Sam Haskell, chief executive of Miss America Organization. “We hope that Miss America not only will generate more interest in Atlantic City, but will generate more local business.”
Pageant judges score contestants from the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands based on a talent competition, a personal interview, their answer to an on-stage question, and their appearance in gowns and swimsuits.
The pageant, which made its television debut 60 years ago, is scheduled to be broadcast live on Sunday starting at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC.
The pageant is at the forefront of Atlantic City’s efforts to rebrand itself as more than just a gambling town.
“We’re diversifying the amenities... and focusing on building out tourism opportunities for people to come and enjoy while they’re here,” said Susan Ney Thompson, a top official at the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Adler