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Joseph Lazarow, a record-breaking glad-hander who presided as mayor of Atlantic City during the dawn of the casino industry, has died in St. Petersburg. He was 84.
He died Thursday after a long illness, said his daughter, Robin Lazarow. She declined to identify the illness.
With little political experience, Lazarow became mayor in 1976, the start of the beach town's transformation to a gambling mecca.
The first casino opened in 1978 after Lazarow was named chairman of the Committee to Rebuild Atlantic City, which supported a ballot measure to open casinos as an urban redevelopment tool.
Lazarow argued to no avail for a rule that casinos hire only Atlantic City residents. He also opposed casinos along the famous Boardwalk, contending they would displace residents and that the new businesses would best fit on the outskirts of town.
In July 1977, Lazarow bested a world record set by Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 for shaking hands in a single day. Lazarow did it 8,514 times, beating Roosevelt's record of 8,513, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
After Lazarow set the record by one shake on the Boardwalk, he got into a motorcycle sidecar and drove throughout the city to shake still more hands.
He moved to Florida in 1995.
[Last modified January 4, 2008, 23:25:05]