A South Jersey economist says there may be light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to Atlantic City's economic future.

In his semi-annual report, Stockton University's Oliver Cooke says after what he calls Atlantic City's "lost decade" of casino closings, a housing crisis and the recession, the turnaround may be slowly starting.

"I think that there are several well-publicized indications."

Among the positive economic developments cited in Cooke's report:

* Hard Rock's entry into the resort city, with a group of investors who are making what will be a very sizable investment in the casino industry.

* New residential development complexes.

* The state's recent announcement that it has effectively negotiated a bargain for the city in its ongoing tax dispute with Borgata.

"I think that also, certainly, they have gone a long way toward clearing up the very large cloud that was hanging over the city itself.

Cooke describes Atlantic City's troubles as a "deep, deep hole," and although he's optimistic, "I think that we should all continue to watch this process play out, and move it in the direction that I think that we all hope that it will move in, and not expect too much too soon."

"Despite comments that this or that might be the "silver bullet," I think those are often times grossly misleading and delusional in these kinds of processes, and unfortunately often times take many years, as painful as that process might be."