Because the New Jersey state legislature was unable to pass a budget by its July 1 deadline, 12 Atlantic City casinos were forced to shut down today. The lack of an authorized budget means that the gambling inspectors who are required by law to oversee casinos, along with other nonessential state personnel, cannot work, so the slot machines went dark and the roulette wheels stopped spinning as of eight o’clock this morning.

This is the first gambling shutdown since gaming was legalized in the state in 1978. The shutdown will cost the state $1.3 million for each day the casinos aren’t operating, according to news reports.

According to Elaine Zamansky, media relations manager with the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, this should not have much of an effect on conventions, because this is a slow time for the city’s meetings and convention business. Other than a few small meetings, she says no large convention is scheduled until July 25, when the Penn-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show plans to bring 11,000 attendees to the Atlantic City Convention Center. Gregg Robertson, president of the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association, Harrisburg, Pa., says the shutdown isn’t making him lose any sleep.

“We don’t think it will have any impact on our show. It’ll probably be resolved, but even if it’s not, the restaurants will be there, the hotels will be there, and the casinos aren’t why our people are coming—they’re coming for the education,” says Robertson. “Most of our attendees come from within a 150-mile radius, so people who want to gamble can go gamble anytime. I’m excited to be bringing our show to Atlantic City for the first time, because the facility is letting us do a whole lot more than we could in our previous location in Fort Washington [Pa.].”

Zamansky isn’t sure what, if any, longer-term effect the shutdown could have because, as she says, “This has never happened before.” While she does think some meeting planners might think twice about Atlantic City as a destination as a result of the shutdown, she’s hopeful that it is viewed as a one-time challenge, not an ongoing concern.

Update 7/7/06: According to the Associated Press, New Jersey governor Jon S. Corzine has reached a compromise with the legislature that would put the budget back on track. While the deal still has to be passed through the Senate and Assembly, he said he expected the casinos to reopen as soon as Saturday. Thirty-six thousand casino employees have been furlowed since Wednesday morning, and the $16 million per-day loss of casino revenue could have cost the casinos as much as $48 million over the three-day shut-down. The state stands to have lost up to $3.9 million in lost tax revenue.