There wasn't much to New Jersey south of Trenton in 1820. During the two generations following the American Revolution, things had changed little. (1.3)
Well, you have to start somewhere. Before Jonathan Pitney came along with wild plans for a fancy beachside resort, South Jersey wasn't much to look at. Atlantic City changes all of this, though, mostly because it inspires the production of several new railroads. Now these formerly isolated towns are all connected to the region's major cities.
During the second half of the 19th century, railroads opened vast tracts of land, otherwise inaccessible, to development. (1.13)
Before railroads, the only way to go anywhere was to either walk or ride a horse. Now, for the first time in history, people can travel across the country in the blink of an eye. This makes it a lot easier to build new communities and support the ones that already exist.
In less than three years, 15 train stations sprang upon between Camden and Atlantic City. (1.48)
See what we mean? This new railroad has the potential to completely change Atlantic City's fortunes, transforming this once-isolated island into a bustling hub of activity.
The industrialization and urbanization of America were, for the first time, creating expendable income for the masses. (2.27)
The industrial age changes America as a whole, creating a vibrant middle class seemingly overnight. This is great news for Atlantic City—more people with expendable income means more potential customers. But you know what they say: More money, more problems.
As America was shifting from an agricultural-based economy to a manufacturing economy, racial prejudice excluded Black from industrial employment. (3.7)
Not everyone benefited equally from the industrial age. In fact, it probably ended up hurting the black population, as many formerly enslaved people found their finely-tuned trade skills completely useless in the modern world. Many were forced into service jobs instead.
The work wasn't always pleasant, and for many employees the adjustment to the industrial age was traumatic. (4.11)
Of course, it's not like working in a factory is fun or anything; the conditions are often dangerous. The work is mind-numbingly boring. For a bunch of former farmers and craftsmen, this work would probably be unbearable if not for their hefty paychecks.
Bound in service to machines from dawn to dusk, these unskilled workers were part of a system that had no regard for the Old World order of apprentice-journeyman-master. (4.11)
Although industrialization is beneficial in many ways, there are plenty of downsides as well. In the old system, workers could expect to rise in the ranks as a craftsman if they were willing to put in the work—in this new one, however, they're simply another moving part in a giant machine. After all, what skills are they building by working in an assembly line all day?
The new industrial world broadened the gap between rich and poor by emphasizing the role that capital played in the control of one's life. (4.11)
The industrial age also changes the way that the economy functions. Although working class families are doing better than ever before, it's nothing compared to wealthy factory owners and businessmen. Those dudes are just going to get richer and richer.
The Great Depression brought hard times to Atlantic City […] Vacations were one of the first things to go when the American economy collapsed. (6.4)
What goes up must come down, and the Great Depression upends the American economy, erasing nearly a century's worth of economic growth in a moment. Remember how the rise of industrialization gave working class families a bit of extra cash flow? Well, that cash flow is now stuffed up.
Atlantic City was the victim of postwar modernization. The changes that occurred in American society were subtle, but they were devastating to Atlantic City. (8.5)
Although modernization was initially a boon for Atlantic City, good times can't last forever. Eventually, technology got so good that most people had no reason to take a vacation to someplace like Atlantic City—after all, they could enjoy the same level of luxury (if not more) by staying home instead.
Before the American colonists arrived, Absegami was a campground for the Native Americans who came to avoid the summer heat. (1.7)
As it turns out, Atlantic City has always been a popular vacation spot. As with pretty much everywhere else in the United States, the land was purchased from Native Americans for next to nothing. It might not be pretty, but it's the truth.
Pitney's dream was to build a "city by the sea." He tried selling his idea by touting the healing powers of salt water and sea air. (1.12)
Atlantic City was founded on snake oil. While there might be some truth behind the so-called "healing powers" of the ocean, it's clear that Pitney is simply trying to convince the world that Atlantic City is a good idea. Here's the crazy part, though: It just might work.
Summer 1858 saw a plague of insects that nearly closed the resort down. Greenhead flies, gnats, and mosquitoes tormented the visitors all summer long. (1.52)
It isn't all fun and games in Atlantic City. Although it eventually grows into a sprawling resort, the city begins its life as a backwoods town with zero modern amenities. The beautiful natural environment might be easy on the eyes, but don't let that fool you—this island is as untamed as they come.
"Atlantic City is an eighth wonder of the world. It is overwhelming in its crudeness—barbaric, hideous, and magnificent. There is something colossal about its vulgarity." (2.30)
This certainly hits the nail on the head. As it grows, Atlantic City realizes that going over-the-top is the best way to please the masses. You have to remember, however, that the city isn't courting wealthy tourists; they're going after the middle and working classes. For these customers, being classy is less important than making a spectacle.
When it came to negative news articles about their town, the prevailing attitude among Atlantic City's politicians was always, "Newspaper is what you wrap fish in." (4.18)
The outside world has long been critical of Atlantic City's existence, but this doesn't bum Atlantic City natives out. Instead it creates a stronger sense of community, fostering a classic us against them mentality. Of course the city's government is as corrupt as they come, but residents have come to expect this.
Conceived and created as resort […] Atlantic City and its residents had no qualms about "ripping off" an out-of-towner. (5.87)
And why should they? Atlantic City was founded with the sole mission of convincing outsiders to fork over their hard-earned money—it's practically written into the city charter. For better or worse, that's the way things work in this seaside town.
Atlantic City's residents didn't care that their government was dishonest. What mattered was that the government, through the ward politicians, responded to their needs. (7.88)
At a certain point, residents stop caring about the city's widespread corruption. After all, the leaders might be corrupt, but at least they do their part to build up the community. In a way, this corrupt political machine actually forces ward leaders to respond to citizens' needs, as everything could crumble to pieces if the party loses popular support.
By 1974 Atlantic City was one with Rita—a broken-down old whore scratching for customers. (9.4)
The second half of the 21st century is a rough one for Atlantic City. With Prohibition over, the local Republican Party dismantled, and record low numbers of tourists, all of the town's lifelines have been cut.
The unexpected success of Atlantic City's first casino was like an explosion. It sent out shock waves that stirred interest across the nation. (11.35)
In a moment, everything changes. Although gambling has been an integral part of Atlantic City's economy for, well, forever, legalized casinos represent a brave new world. What's more, this is the first time in a long time that people are talking about Atlantic City in a positive light.
Jonathan Pitney's beach village remains an experiment in social planning grounded in tourism. (12.64)
At the time of Boardwalk Empire's publication, Atlantic City was in the midst of a tourism-fueled upswing. Just a few years later, however, it was right back down in the economic pits. That's just how things go in good old Atlantic City.
The politicians saw the easy money being made by the racketeers and demanded a piece of the action. (4.28)
In Atlantic City, there's a fine line between politicians and criminals. Although these early leaders don't realize it, they're writing a script that future Atlantic City politicians will follow along their rise to power.
The Commodore wasn't content just having control of Atlantic City politics. If he were to catch the attention of the state Republican organization, he would need to dominate things totally. (4.42)
If nothing else, you have to give credit to Kuehnle for having a vision. We can debate whether or not this political system is ethical or not, but the truth is that it works. That's more than you can say about a lot of local governments. Furthermore, Kuehnle knows that simply controlling the city isn't going to be enough—he needs to move up to the big leagues.
The ability to crank out lopsided votes in a Republican primary made Kuehnle a power broker on the state level. Politicians respect votes no matter how they're gotten. (4.45)
Ah, there's nothing like a heaping serving of voter fraud to really make you feel alive. Now Atlantic City's leaders aren't merely powerful within the city—they're powerful within the whole state. Kuehnle can literally change the course of an election by making a few telephone calls. Boo ya.
When Wilson entered New Jersey politics, the state was a prime example of what reformers throughout the country were battling. (4.50)
Although Atlantic City is particularly corrupt, the entire state of New Jersey is sort of a mess, too. After all, would a non-corrupt state government really give so much support to Atlantic City's leaders? If there's smoke, you can bet your bottom dollar that there's a fire.
Walter Edge became governor. This was the first of many occasions when Nucky and Hague put aside party differences to work for their mutual interests. (5.20)
Backroom deals are as common as the cold in Atlantic City. How else would you see a Democrat and Republican working together to get the same guy elected? While this might seem heartwarming to the modern eye, it actually reveals a disturbing level of governmental corruption.
That so many people in power could take leave of their senses by supporting a law so utterly unenforceable stands as a monument to the ignorance of single-issue politics. (5.23)
Ironically, Atlantic City ends up benefiting from one of the biggest political blunders in U.S. history—Prohibition. Although it started with the best of intentions, Prohibition only ends up shifting money from working class families to criminals. This effect is amplified even further in Atlantic City, where liquor sales continue as if Prohibition never happened.
"There never really was a second political party in Atlantic City, just different lineups of players who ran under different banners." (5.34)
Eventually the local Republican Part basically takes over the local Democratic Party. Politics in Atlantic City is like a shell game: No matter how much you pay attention, it's all but impossible to know what's truly going on. It's all one big con.
Atlantic City's residents had come to expect favors that went beyond politics. Farley's duties were like those of a feudal lord. (7.2)
As usual, there are pluses and minuses to this approach. On one hand, residents really do have someone who listens to their concerns and sincerely tries to meet their needs. On the other, one wrong move will lead to you being blackballed by the organization.
Hap ruled the Republican Caucus in the state senate the same way a strong-willed coach runs his team. (7.53)
Unlike his predecessors, Hap is actually really good at being a politician. Fancy that. When you combine this natural political acumen with the corruption inherent in being an Atlantic City boss, you end up with one powerful dude.
Hap Farley knew the world was growing hostile toward his brand of politics, yet he refused to retire or change his methods. (8.36)
This is how it all ends. After all of the legislative success, all of the backroom dealings, and all of the political intrigue, the Atlantic City political machine is no more. The world simply moved on and Farley wasn't interested in moving along with it.
The Commodore was Boss and nothing was done without his okay; every candidate, employee, city contract, and mercantile license required his nod of approval. (4.32)
In Atlantic City, the boss always knows best. It's actually pretty crazy that a modern American city functioned like this; Kuehnle must have been in meetings all day, every day. Still, if he's going to gain the power he so desperately wants, he'll need to create a giant political machine with one sole purpose—making the Commodore a king.
Louis Kuehnle used his power to help transform a sprawling beach village into a modern city. (4.37)
Kuehnle is the first man to hold ultimate power over Atlantic City. Although you can have beef with the dude over the way that he wielded that power, you can't deny the monumental effect he had on the history of Atlantic City.
Kuehnle had the undying affection of the public, but Nucky Johnson had the power, and he used it in a way that made the Commodore look like a choirboy. (4.76)
Unlike Kuehnle, Nucky didn't become boss to become popular—he did it to become powerful. That's a big difference. No matter what, Kuehnle was always concerned first and foremost with gaining the support of his community. Although Nucky loved Atlantic City, he didn't love it half as much as he loved himself.
For nearly 30 years, Enoch "Nucky" Johnson lived the life of a decadent monarch, with the power to satisfy his every want. (5.3)
See what we mean? Nucky becomes the King of Atlantic City, wielding his political and social power like a lightsaber. You know what they say: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When the guy in question is already pretty corrupt, however, things are going to get nasty.
When a community is thriving, everyone wants power. This was especially true in the resort where the political spoils systems was woven into the fabric of the community. (5.31)
Of course more power leads to more problems… or something like that. Although no one is going to be able to take a swipe at Nucky's throne for some time, it's clear that a big storm is brewing. Like moths attracted to a lamp, power-hungry people are starting to gather around Nucky in the hopes of taking a piece of him with them. It's tough out there for a boss, huh?
Larson and Kean offered Nucky the state chairmanship of the Republican Party, but he turned it down. His power was beyond positions and titles. (5.68)
At this point, Nucky is beyond politics altogether. That doesn't mean that he doesn't have his hands in the political game, however—no matter what happens, you can bet that Nucky is pulling the strings. That being said, Nucky realizes that it's much wiser to wield power from the shadows, as it protects him and his organization from prying eyes.
Nucky had influence with all these people but it was more than his power; […] the people of Atlantic City were happy with the way their town was being run. (5.71)
Contrary to our expectations, the residents of Atlantic City have no issue with someone like Nucky having power over their lives. They're just happy to have someone who listens to their concerns. That's all well and good, but what do you think will happen when things start going south?
Nucky shunned any opportunities to return to power. If he couldn't be the boss, it was better to remain on the sidelines. (6.73)
Nucky had a darn good run at the top. To be honest, we were surprised that Nucky accepted his fate so quickly, going from the wealthiest person in town to a pariah seemingly overnight. It almost makes us admire him—or more than we did before, at least.
That kind of power is intoxicating and only an extraordinary person could have given it up voluntarily. (8.36)
Do you think you would be able to let go of that kind of power so easily? Do you think you could go from being the most powerful person in your town to being an average Joe? We doubt we'd give it up so easily. That would be like Drake quitting music to work at Taco Bell.
There was no "inner circle" on continuum of personalities whom he relied on from one campaign to another. (11.7)
Mayor Mike Matthews represents the declining fate of Atlantic City. No matter how powerful they became, Matthews's predecessors knew they only reached such heights because of their support system. Matthews forgets this lesson and pays for it big-time.
A medical practice in 19th-century America wasn't yet a path to wealth and prestige, and Pitney hungered for both. (1.1)
It all starts with a dream. Jonathan Pitney is a humble doctor who has dedicated his life to helping the people of his community. But that's not enough for him. Pitney wants the American Dream, the whole shebang. He wants to rise in the ranks of society and emerge a bona fide member of the upper class.
A dozen or so families, these barons controlled most of the wealth […] and employed almost anyone who wasn't a farmer or fisherman. (1.25)
This is the state of society when Atlantic City is founded. There are pretty much only two groups of people, the mega-rich and everyone else. Luckily for the resort, this dynamic shifts as industry develops, changing the complexion of Atlantic City (and America) forever.
From Richards' perspective, more working-class visitors from Philadelphia were needed to spur growth. (1.59)
The founders of Atlantic City quickly realize that courting working class visitors will be their only chance at success. This is actually pretty revolutionary: Before Atlantic City, vacations were almost exclusively the domain of the wealthy and powerful.
The prospect of a second railroad into Atlantic City divided the town […] Many didn't […] want to rub elbows with the working class of Philadelphia. (1.61)
Well that's just rude. This goes to show that, although business leaders realize the importance of working class customers, many middle and upper class residents are quite unhappy with this business tactic. They have no interest in dealing with working class rabble.
Despite today's notion of Atlantic City as a vacation spot for the wealthy, the resort could never have survived by catering to the upper classes. (2.14)
When Atlantic City was founded, its main competitor was Cape May, a popular vacation home for the rich and famous. But when was the last time you heard someone talk about Cape May? Atlantic City became so successful because it took the leap and created the first resort experience for the not-so-wealthy.
The Captain knew his customers and gave them what they wanted. The people who came to town on the cut-rate excursions had simple tastes. (2.3)
If John Young has anything going for him, it's that he understands his customers. These are people who work super hard for six days a week, driven forward by fantasies of spending a day in Atlantic City. They're not looking for classy entertainment; they're looking for fun.
One lesson Nucky learned well from the Commodore was that the poor have votes just as well as the rich, and if you took care of the poor, you could count on their votes. (5.53)
If you can give Nucky any credit, it's that he's always sure to help out the poor and working class residents of Atlantic City. True, he does it for some less than savory reasons, but that shouldn't matter too much in the long run. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to heaven might be equally contradictory.
When jobs grew scarce, Blacks discovered they had competition from White workers. Hotel employment was no longer exclusively "Negro work." (8.10)
At first, black residents of Atlantic City are forced into hotel employment simply because no white people want do the job. Now that Atlantic City is in dire straits, however, white folk are eager to take back the jobs they never wanted in the first place. Once again, black Americans are left by the wayside.
The social welfare programs instituted by Roosevelt's New Deal […] multiplied until Atlantic City's downtrodden no longer had to go to the precinct captain every time they had a problem. (8.33)
The rise of the welfare system transforms the way Atlantic City functions. Before, lower class residents depended on the whims of local politicians for financial and material support. Now, however, the federal government has taken over the job. You can debate whether or not this is a positive change, but the fact remains that it transforms the fabric of Atlantic City society.
The spirit of the community was burned out, too. As the middle class made its exodus, the town's social fabric unraveled. (9.6)
This happens all the time in cities. First, economic instability takes its toll on an urban center, prompting middle and upper class residents to flee—after all, they're the only ones who can afford a move. This leaves working class residents stuck in a decaying wasteland with little hope of getting out.
The railroads hired other "distinguished men of medicine" […] to make written endorsements and to prescribe a stay at the beach as the cure for every ailment. (2.17)
In case you can't tell, the phrase "distinguished men of medicine" refers to the old timey equivalent of those guys who host late night infomercials extolling the latest diet craze. Atlantic City was founded on the false promise of a magical medical transformation—and amazingly, it worked.
The Boardwalk created the illusion that everyone was part of a huge middle class parading to prosperity and social freedom. (2.31)
This isn't by accident. Atlantic City's business leaders have long been courting working class patrons, knowing that a high volume of less-wealthy visitors is better than a low volume of rich ones. In order to get these working class folks to spend more money, the hucksters on the boardwalk need to play a few tricks.
Boardwalk merchants […] were, in large part, responsible for institutionalizing the concept of the spending spree in American culture. (2.38)
That's certainly impressive, we suppose, in the same way that it's impressive how many seasons of Keeping up the Kardashians there are. In other words, in an unsavory kind of way. These dudes have made it their mission to squeeze as much cash from tourists as possible, and they're not going to let silly things like morality keep them from reaching their goal.
Sheriff Johnson […] controlled the selection of the grand jury and saw to it that everyone chosen to serve was "safe." (4.21)
That's a tricky move, Mr. Johnson. By now, Atlantic City's leaders have developed a finely-tuned ability to spin every situation to their own benefit, even going as far as rigging grand juries. Crimes don't even get to trial because they're so good at clogging up the courts.
Kuehnle was corrupt, but he had a vision for his town's future and he worked the levers of power to make that vision a reality. (4.38)
If it makes you feel any better, all of this manipulation is done for a good cause. Well, maybe not a good cause, by a cause nonetheless. Kuehnle is different than the men who follow him, as he creates the playbook that they will follow during their own paths to prominence.
Unlike the Commodore, Nucky was an organizer. His flamboyant lifestyle camouflaged a calculating mind, figuring angles and planning his moves constantly. (5.63)
Unlike his predecessor, Nucky grew up within the Atlantic City political machine. Kuehnle had to figure things out as he went along, but Nucky has been planning for this moment all his life. The manipulative nature of Atlantic City politics is about to be kicked into overdrive with this new ambitious leader at the helm.
It now became perfectly clear […] it was not a case of individuals committing perjury, but the perjury was the result of a gigantic conspiracy. (6.46)
As an outsider, Agent William Frank is shocked by the way that things work in Atlantic City. This is one of those rare instances where there actually is a gigantic conspiracy happening—Nucky has literally every single person in the local government under is thumb.
City employees who had signed the loyalty oath were expected to show their paper ballots […] to the poll workers. The intimidation worked. (7.62)
When all else fails, some good old-fashioned bullying will get the job done. This passage shows that even Nucky's inner circle is not exempt from being manipulated, their livelihoods threatened by the same man who signs off on their paychecks.
Corruption had been the norm in Atlantic City's government for so long that bribery, graft, and payroll padding were standard practices of doing municipal business. (8.44)
At a certain point, all of this manipulation becomes just another part of doing business. Lest we judge too much, we have to remember how much icky stuff still happens in modern corporations and governments. We might not be paying as much attention—or getting as much out of the deal—as the residents of Atlantic City, but corruption is simply a part of life.
By Atlantic City's standards, Michael Matthews' biggest sin wasn't that he stole, but that he was clumsy at doing it. Matthew was worse than corrupt—he was inept. (11.12)
To be honest, Atlantic City residents don't care very much about being manipulated as long as they get their cut. They understand that having a corrupt government comes with its fair share of benefits. But if you're not going to let them in on the con, you can best believe you won't earn their support.
The muscle and sweat needed to keep things going was furnished by Black workers, lured north in hope of a better life. (2.47)
Atlantic City would have never been possible without the contributions of black workers. As we'll come to learn, however, these workers are not properly recognized for the hard work that they do.
Typical of the era, the name of the waiter who led the strike remains unknown. To White society, African-Americans, generally were anonymous. (3.5)
Upset by their mistreatment, black workers attempt to unionize and fight for their rights. Unsurprisingly, the Atlantic City bigwigs squash the strike immediately. Without any better prospects, these disenfranchised workers have no choice but to grin and bear it. Ugh.
The number of Black artisans dwindled to only a handful. That such a large reservoir of talent was permitted to dry up confirms the ignorance and inutility of racial prejudice. (3.9)
To be honest, racism is just about the dumbest thing on the planet. How does preventing highly-trained workers from utilizing their talents help a country? How does preventing a sizeable portion of your population from getting real work help stabilize an economy? When you look at it like that, racism isn't just evil—it's counterproductive.
No other group in the American population—including new immigrants from Europe—had such a large proportion of its members in such menial employment. (3.13)
That's the truth. Atlantic City eventually becomes home to many of these ethnic groups, including Jewish, Italian, and Irish immigrants, all three of which play a prominent role in the development of Atlantic City. Black residents, on the other hand, have a radically different experience.
New Jersey's reaction to Lincoln's election in 1860 included talk of secession. (3.20)
Despite modern stereotypes, there's no magic dividing line between the North and the South. Though it seems more equal on the surface, the Northeast can be just as racist as the Deep South.
As a result, the Atlantic City tourist economy provided Black workers with the ability to move from one type of job to another. (3.21)
It might not be much, but it's something. In other Northern cities, black workers are generally forced to work as personal servants, giving them no opportunity to rise in the ranks of a business. They might be doing the same type of work in Atlantic City, but at least they have the opportunity to get a promotion.
But the mobility available in the workplace did not translate into social mobility. As Blacks grew in numbers, the racial attitude of Atlantic City's Whites hardened. (3.23)
At first, race relations are pretty solid in Atlantic City. As more black families move into the city, however, white residents start to see their monopoly being threatened and respond angrily. To these people, a few black residents are fine, but a sizeable black population is to be feared. It's pretty ridiculous.
Although Northern Whites did not institute a legal system of segregation and disenfranchisement, they did develop subtlety identifiable discriminatory patterns. (3.26)
Once again, we see commonly held stereotypes about the North and the South completely shattered. On one hand, it's obvious that Southern states have more laws regulating the lives of black citizens, and never for the better. While these laws don't exist on the books up North, the racially-charged motivations behind them are as present as ever.
Many readings from the time […] have an unreal quality. It was almost as if White society wished Blacks would disappear at the end of the workday. (3.29)
That would be the least cool magic trick of all time. This just goes to show the downright absurdity of racism. Atlantic City—and the country as a whole—has been built by black workers, yet they never gain the respect of white citizens, no matter how hard they try. It's pretty ridiculous.
The White parents made her job impossible by […] glaring and taunting her as she tried to teach. (3.62)
In the end, Atlantic City imposes straight-up segregation. But we thought this was the liberal North… As usual, the truth behind racism is much more complicated than most people think.
Prostitution was a ticklish subject in the resort. The presence of brothels in turn-of-the-20th century Atlantic City was well known, but talked about little. (4.1)
The same could be said about the rest of the city's criminal underworld: Everyone knows about it, but no one talks about it. This actually works pretty well for a while, quietly drawing in tourists from Philly eager to have a wild weekend. But this is just the beginning.
"If the people who came to town had wanted Bible readings, we'd have given 'em that. But […] they wanted booze, broads, and gambling, so that's what we gave 'em." (4.14)
Well, it's true, isn't it? We can take the high road and criticize the leaders of Atlantic City for turning their town into a criminal paradise, but we'd be missing the point: They only did it because that's what their visitors wanted. That's just what business people do. We can critique them until the cows come home, but we can't act surprised when things like this happen.
Hundreds of local families relied on illegal sources of income and as long as the visitors were happy, no one interfered. (4.18)
Don't think that the only people making money are hardened criminals—many regular folk earn their paychecks through illegal businesses, too. It might not be their preferred way of making money, but it's what they have to do to survive.
Atlantic City's residents understood the role of the local vice industry and appreciated the need for protecting it from interference by law enforcement officials. (4.27)
In this city, crime is best for business. Though most wouldn't say it out loud, residents of Atlantic City realize that a thriving criminal underworld is integral to the city's development. They may not be partaking in these illicit thrills themselves, but they know that they're important to have around.
Without a flourishing vice industry, […] the local Republican Party would lose the money needed to continue its dominance. (5.15)
By now, the Atlantic City political system has become indistinguishable from its criminal underworld. The vice industry funds the politicians, who in turn protect the vice industry from pesky state and federal interference. It's a match made in heaven.
While Prohibition educed the general availability of alcohol, it greatly increased the money available for political corruption and organized crime. (5.23)
Prohibition ends up having the complete opposite effect than intended. Instead of stopping all sale of alcohol in the U.S., it simply shifts business from family-owned operations to criminal enterprises. That's a great thing for Atlantic City's mobsters… but that's about it.
The elite corps of the department was the vice squad; it was Nucky's right arm for protecting Atlantic City's rackets and collecting the payoffs. (5.60)
Okay, so the Atlantic City vice squad doesn't take down illegal operations—it protects them. By now, Nucky has created a finely-tuned machine capable of squeezing every dollar possible from the city's criminal underbelly. It's not pretty, but it gets the job done.
Nucky ran the type of town other mobsters envied; his was a wide-open operation, with the rackets immune from the police and courts because Nucky controlled them. (5.78)
For a brief period, Nucky runs the perfect criminal enterprise. He doesn't have to worry about the police—he runs the department. He doesn't have to worry about politicians either, since he owns them, too. He doesn't even have to worry about the public because they're all cheering on his success. If criminals were Jedi, Nucky would be the chosen one.
When the vice industry refused to support him, he increased the raids and cast himself as a crusader cleaning up the town. (7.35)
Taggart thinks that he has it all figured out. If he can throw his weight around, placing pressure on Atlantic City's vice lords, then he can have his cake and eat it, too. But things don't work like that in this town; these criminals aren't going down without a fight.
While criminal types would make occasional inroads into related business and unions, they never had a prayer at dominating Atlantic City as they had. (11.51)
Holy smokes—it worked. Although the idea of legalized gambling was met with a great deal of skepticism, the plan actually works just as intended. Now Atlantic City can use casinos to hook tourists without having to deal with hardened criminals or uncompromising mobsters. That's what you call a win-win.