Monopoly is turning 80.
Based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City, Monopoly is one of the world's most popular board games.
The greed-driven game, in which competitors try to buy up all the property they can and collect as much cash as possible, has been played by an estimated 1 billion people in 114 countries.
The city's mayor, Don Guardian, says Monopoly remains relevant in present-day Atlantic City, where the casino industry is shrinking, taxes are rising, and the city and state are racing to build new attractions less dependent on gambling to bring in tourists and their money.
"The concepts of capitalism, money, buying up properties, raising the rent, buying out your competition kind of remain today, too," he said. "I couldn't think of a game that's more relevant for Atlantic City than Monopoly."
Monopoly was "born" March 19, 1935, when Parker Brothers acquired the rights to the game from Charles Darrow. Here's how the game might look if its "birthday" were March 19, 2015:
1. The new Ritz
The most expensive spot on today's Monopoly board would be The Borgata, Atlantic City's top casino and a major reason why people come here. Encased in shimmering gold glass that sends dazzling shards of light onto the city streets when the sun hits it just right, the Borgata dwarfs its competitors in the Atlantic City gambling market. It won $687 million from gamblers last year, more than twice as much as its closest competitor and next-door neighbor, Harrah's, which would make a nice adjacent space on the present-day board's high-rent district. The Golden Nugget, which has drastically improved its financial performance of late, could also be located nearby, as it is in real-life in the city's Marina District.
2. The Boardwalk
The first wooden walkway of its kind in the world, Atlantic City's Boardwalk remains a tourism icon. It has nine casinos on it--but after a brutal 2014 that saw four of them go out of business, only five are still operating. That knocks Boardwalk down a peg or two on the new board. But it's still a magical place where you can find everything from cotton candy and funnel cakes to gourmet meals, with the smell of the ocean and the screech of the seagulls surrounding you.
3. The shopping
The Walk, Atlantic City's outlet shopping and dining district, has succeeded in giving non-gamblers a reason to visit. Clothing stores, shoe shops and eateries stretch for blocks in the city center, and a new Bass Pro Shops outlet is opening soon.
4. Low-rent district
Bader Field used to be an airport (and indeed was the first facility in the world to be called an "airport.") But it shut down in 2006, and aside from an occasional concert (Metallica took it over for two nights in 2013, and Phish for three nights in 2012), it sits empty, as does a minor league baseball stadium next door that used to host the Atlantic City Surf. Maryland Avenue, which was home to a violent street gang responsible for numerous shootings and large-scale drug dealing until a major police raid, would belong on the lowest-priced end of the board. Stretches of Pacific Avenue are pocked with run-down buildings and streetwalkers, so it would probably be knocked from its spot on the highest-priced quarter of the board.
5. Community Chest 2015
Here are some twist-of-fate cards you might get in present-day Atlantic City:
Carl Icahn buys your casino. Lose your health insurance and pension. (This is currently happening at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, where the billionaire investor is battling the union over costs, trying to force workers into government-sponsored health plans. A bankruptcy court judge gave him approval last week to take over the casino.)
Your proposed purchase of Revel Casino Hotel falls through. Go back to bankruptcy court and wait for a lower price. (This, too, is happening, with three proposed sales of the failed casino having fallen apart. A bankruptcy judge last week rejected a proposed sale of the $2.4 billion property to a Florida developer at what would have been a 96 percent discount.)
Take a ride on the Steel Pier observation wheel. (The iconic amusement pier, which once housed the famous Diving Horse, is building one of the largest Ferris wheels in the U.S., with climate-controlled, enclosed cars providing for year-round views of the ocean and city skyline.)
Caesars Entertainment closes your casino in the name of reducing competition. Lose your job. (They did that twice last year, at The Atlantic Club and the Showboat.)
Go to Boardwalk Hall, see the new Miss America. (The pageant is back where it began each September, in Atlantic City.)
6. Go to jail
Historically, no square on the board was better suited to Atlantic City than this one. Political corruption flourished here from Nucky Johnson, the Prohibition-era political and rackets boss immortalized in the hit HBO series "Boardwalk Empire," to a series of lower-profile felons. As recently as 2007, four of the city's last eight mayors had been busted on corruption charges, and a third of the nine-member City Council was in prison or under house arrest. The cast of characters included a mayor who admitted taking a bribe from a federal agent posing as a mob-connected representative of a janitorial supply company, and a City Council president who--while waiting to report to prison on a bribery conviction--orchestrated a sex sting to lure a political rival to a motel tryst with a prostitute, secretly videotaped it and sent copies to the media.
Here are 10 things you might not know about Monopoly:
1. Charles Darrow of Philadelphia developed the game in 1933 and sold it to Parker Brothers on March 19, 1935. A stenographer and actress, Elizabeth Magie, filed a legal claim for her similar "Landlord's Game" in 1903, but Monopoly's current owner, Hasbro, says: "The Monopoly game as we know it today was designed by Charles Darrow."
2. The original game Darrow sold to Parker Brothers contained items from his own home: A piece of oilcloth covered the board and the cards were handwritten. The houses and hotels were made from wooden molding scraps, and the die-cast tokens were inspired by Darrow's nieces, who recommended metal charms from charm bracelets be used. The first 10 tokens were an iron, purse, lantern, race car, thimble, shoe, top hat, battleship, cannon and a rocking horse. The current standard version of the game includes eight tokens: battleship, top hat, Scottie dog, race car, thimble, boot, cat, and wheelbarrow.
3. Within a year of Monopoly's release in the U.S., 35,000 copies of the game were being made each week, selling for $2 apiece.
4. There are 40 spaces on the Monopoly board and 28 properties (22 color-coded streets, four railroads, and two utility spaces). There are 32 houses and 12 hotels.
5. To keep games shorter, a Speed Die was introduced into the standard game in 2008.
6. The three most landed-on properties in the standard game are Illinois Avenue, "GO" and B&O Railroad.
7. The total amount of money in a standard Monopoly game is $20,580.
8. Every few years, national champions from around the globe meet for the Monopoly World Championship tournament. The first winner was Lee Bayrd from the United States in 1973 in Liberty, New York. The most recent winner was Bjorn Halvard Knappskog from Norway in 2009, winning the game in 41 minutes, 30 seconds. This year's championship will be held in September in Macau, China.
9. In 2008, nearly 3,000 Monopoly fans around the world set the world record for the most people playing the game at the same time.
10. In 1988, San Francisco jeweler Sidney Mobell created the most expensive Monopoly set in the world, consisting of 18 and 23-karat gold, and 42 diamonds. It was valued at $2 million.